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The Official Supernatural: “Proverbs 17:3” (15.05) Live Recap Thread


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It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 48 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 15 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 64 total by next April. I currently have 151 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Recap of the season so far, beginning with a quickie two-shot of Sam’s dream about killing Dean that was probably as long as the showrunners originally wanted it to be, ending with Castiel flouncing offstage for a few episodes.

Cut to Now. Three young women, all blonde and all affluent, are sitting inside a large tent. For some bizarre reason, they are dressed like a bunch of aged-out Girl Scouts on safari (one wears a floppy hat that’s shaped like a pith helmet), even though the caption reads that they are in Black Forest, Colorado. They are celebrating 11 years of annual camping trips and that this is their last one, since they are graduating from college and about to go their separate ways. Two of them (the two who keep sniping at each other) have jobs. The third, named Ashley, was only able to manage driving Uber, as some direct result of her getting a Philosophy degree. I shall check my snark on some white dudebro in Hollywood writing condescendingly about educational and financial decisions young women make. Suffice it to say that it’s not a good look for TV writers.

Anyhoo, after sampling some of her friends’ spiced rum, Ashley hears a rustling of bushes in the forest, but she’s the only one alarmed by it. The friend who mocked her degree before goes outside to get more rum. But a moment later, she screams and there’s a rushing noise on the soundtrack. Pith Helmet Girl calls her name (Julie), but there’s no answer. Against Ashley’s wordless protest, PHG goes to the tent flap to zip it closed. But she’s yanked out, with a scream, before she can. Ashley belts out her own scream.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Bunker, where Sam is walking around with a saltgun and looking in bemusement at the number of unanswered texts he’s sent to Castiel (calling him ‘Cass’). Dean come in from a supply run having made a wonderful discovery – ghost pepper jerky. It only takes a few chews (and some barely suppressed amusement from Sam, who did try to warn him) before Dean realizes his horrible mistake. In the meantime (while Dean’s eyes are watering, and he’s gagging and sucking down water), Sam confirms that the three victims for their new hunt (with the Doomed Teaser Gals) has gone up to five. So, there are new victims out in them thar Colorado woods.

After Dean dashes off to the bathroom to throw up, we cut to a view of the Bunker corridors and then to Sam in a white suit (i.e., Samifer) sitting at the table in the Library. Dean, wearing his season five blue jacket, comes up behind him with the Colt. Saying “Please forgive me” (to which Samifer smiles coldly), Dean cocks the gun and shoots his brother in the back of the head. But Samifer quickly heals ( Dean should have known from season five, already) and lifts his head. Saying “Did you really think that would work? Poor, faithful Dean, we both knew it had to end this way,” he makes Dean spontaneously combust, while basking in the flames.

This turns out to be another nightmare, from which Sam wakes up in the Impala. Dean is driving (they’re on their way to Colorado). Dean asks him to tell him about it, but Sam demurs. Yes, Sam is still lying to Dean about his dreams.

They arrive in daylight and it turns out Dean has a different idea than their usual FBI suits – Fish and Wildlife, with some very old IDs for Ford and Hamill. The sheriff thinks Dean looks old for his ID (which is eye-rolling, since Jared Padalecki has changed much more significantly as he’s aged than Jensen Ackles, albeit Ackles’ voice has “aged” much more). She’s played by the same actress who played Tara the Hunter in season nine’s “First Born,” so I guess that’s final confirmation of Tara’s death. That sucks. I liked Tara. Always kinda hoped she’d somehow managed to survive. And I just retro-reviewed that episode, so it’s still fresh.

The sheriff tells them she thinks it’s a person, not an animal, who’s actually done the attacks because it ate the hearts of the two dead girls (we never find out anything about the other two dead people who were supposedly part of the body count). There’s only one survivor so far – Ashley from the teaser.

Her full name is Ashley Munroe and she’s still in the hospital, with a huge scratch down one side of her face, when the Brothers interview her. Sam asks her if she remembers anything. She has a flashback to running through the woods, being chased by a guy in red flannel, but is too afraid to speak in front of the male nurse. Sam has the nurse talk to him outside, while Dean interviews her alone.

Dean reassures her that “whatever you saw, we’ll believe you.” After a rather short amount of time, she admits that she was attacked by a man, but that this man was a “monster” with big teeth and claws (another flashback) that gave her the scratch and warned her to keep quiet. She begs him for protection. Dean confirms this monster as a werewolf and tells her that monsters are real. Holding her hand, he gives her The Talk and reassures her that everything will be all right. I am more confused by why he’s not checking her for bites with silver.

Dean and Sam consult in the hallway, where Dean fills Sam in. He also has a name – Andy May. Sam points out that it wasn’t a full moon (oh, Show, you decided to remember that bit of lore after ignoring it for so long?). Dean says Andy could be a Pureblood (and ergo, could turn at any time). Sam goes to get the address. Dean turns and looks through the window into Ashley’s room, where she looks terrified and cries to herself.

The Brothers roll up to a rustic cabin in the woods, in broad daylight, still dressed like Duck Dynasty rejects. Sam says Andy lives there with his brother Josh. Oh, look, everybody – blatant MOTW parallels to our lead characters.

So, the guy in the button-down shirt who answers claims he’s not Andy, but that the guy in the pullover white sweater is. Not-Andy is taller and hostile, and keeps throwing the Winchesters shade (including making a snarky age joke about Dean’s ID). This must be Josh. Andy is overly solicitous and helpful, in stark contrast to his brother. Both of them react to Ashley’s photo on Sam’s phone (nice way of outing her to the monsters, Sam), which Dean watches closely. Sam tries to get them to write down their phone number on his notepad, using a silver pen, and Josh recoils. Not very subtle, these two.

After Josh abruptly ends the conversation and practically shuts the door in their faces, Dean suggests to Sam that they shoot both werewolves right then and there. It’s a thought, at that. Would be a shorter episode, anyway.

As the Winchesters go to the Impala and drive away, Josh nervously watches them go. He berates Andy for babbling (and letting Ashley go), but Andy points out they wouldn’t be in this predicament if Josh hadn’t killed the other two girls. Apparently, Josh has been spiraling since their dad (also a werewolf, it seems) died. Josh manages to turn this around on Andy by saying they have to kill Ashley, now.

Just a note – Josh is significantly taller than his brother. Also the older one. Apparently.

That night at the Sleepy Bear Inn, the Winchesters are letting Ashley (who has checked out of the hospital) into their room. Dean offers to let her sleep there for the night, while they take another room next door. Dean’s plan is to go back to the cabin and off the two werewolf brothers before they can get up to any more heart-eating shenanigans. Sam frets that the hunt has been too “easy” so far, which Dean shrugs off.

Ashley throws a spanner in the works, though, when she asks Dean to watch over her until she falls asleep. Dean looks surprised, even chagrined, by the request, but agrees.

Speaking of “easy,” the werewolf brothers are staking out the motel in their rusty pickup. Despite Andy’s pointing out that the Winchesters are there, too, Josh figures it’ll be a breeze to go in and kidnap Ashley.

In the motel room, Dean is having trouble staying awake. He comes out of the bathroom after splashing water on his face. Ashley is in bed, still fully dressed, sitting up. She just took some of the pills the hospital gave her, which Dean adjudges “the good stuff” (he would know).

Ashley asks him if he likes his job. Dean admits that he still does. Yes, there’s “a lot of bad,” but he still does some good. She asks him if ever wanted to be anything else. “Jimi Hendrix,” he jokes.

Ashley talks a bit about her life – graduating from college, the bit about how she and her friends went camping together since they were kids, how she doesn’t have a job or anything. Dean tries to reassure her – “You got time.”

Ashley then says something really strange (and yes, Dean does notice this). She says, “Wouldn’t it be great if everything was just planned out for you? If it was all just already decided?”

“No,” Dean replies as Ashley goes to sleep. “Not really.”

The camera swings portentously down to the alarm clock on the bedstand between their beds (which reads a quarter to twelve). Then, after changing to 1:20 am, it swings back to Dean on his bed, deeply asleep. Sam wakes him up (Dean comes awake, ready to fight) and it turns out Ashley is missing. When Sam came back from getting some food, he found her gone and the door wide open. Without trying to explain, Dean grabs his jacket and runs out the door. Sam follows.

At their house, the werewolf brothers have her in their cellar or shed or kitchen, or something, tied up and gagged, facing a large collection of badly maintained carpentry tools and some blood-streaked metal walls. Why they didn’t kill her at the motel (or, for that matter, Dean) is not explained in the fight they’re having over whether to kill her now. Josh is all hot to kill her – not just to eliminate a witness, but because being a werewolf is awesome. Josh is so high on the smell of his own werewolf farts that he completely spaces the part where his brother is the one talking sense.

Outside, the Winchesters are arriving unnoticed as Dean is insisting the werewolves couldn’t have possibly taken Ashley while he was asleep. Which, considering he is still breathing and in possession of his heart, is a decent point. The werewolf brothers don’t hear them arrive, which I’m willing to attribute to soundproofing going both ways in their abbatoir – until Ashley screams and the Winchesters kick down the door in response.

Andy and Josh hear that and flee the abbatoir, right before the Winchesters enter. Dean puts his gun away long enough to cut Ashley loose. He gets her up and heading out the door as Sam covers them. Alas, Sam’s coverage doesn’t help much. As they are exiting through the living room, the werewolf brothers come down from the ceiling and ambush them. Sam immediately loses his gun.

As Ashley cowers in a corner, Josh goes after Dean and Andy goes after Sam. Both Sam and Dean do pretty badly (unrealistically so) in the fight and even Dean using a dried-up set of deer antlers off the wall against Josh doesn’t go as planned. I recall showrunner Andrew Dabb saying in a recent interview that the Winchesters would have a harder time on hunts thanks to Chuck. Well, that idea sounds nice on paper, but sucks in the execution. All it adds up to here is a boring fight where the Brothers Winchester are losing to two low-rent werewolves for no damned good reason. It’s not even LOL!canon. It’s just lame.

Anyhoo, Andy ends up with Dean’s gun, starts to aim it at Sam, looks agonized, then shoots his brother just as Josh is about to bite Dean. While Sam tries to talk him down, he rants a bit about how Josh was his brother, but was “never going to stop,” that Josh “was a monster and I’m a monster, too.” Then he shoots himself. Bye, Captain Obvious.

The Brothers are seriously confused. Dean even comments, “Well, that was weird.”

As Ashley comes out of the corner, looking freaked out, Dean tries to take her elbow to guide her gently out of the room. Instead, out of nowhere, Ashley shrieks, “DON’T TOUCH ME!” swings around, trips, and lands on the dried-out old antlers, which are suddenly like tensile steel and razor sharp, and pierce her torso in several places. They also appear to kill her instantly.

Sam and Dean are even more confused (not horrified by her sudden death, just confused). After a few seconds, she suddenly revives and says, “Well, this is a bitch.” She sits up, still ‘wearing’ the antlers, and whines, “And I was doing so well, too!” Then she stands up and TK’s the rack out of her back.

Sam says, “What are you?” ‘Ashley’ responds by rolling her eyes up white and we’re treated to a flashback of Sam killing Lilith at the end of season four in “Lucifer Rising.” Dean then says her name.

It turns out that Lilith was dead and in the Empty when Chuck came and revived her. Her mission? To set up the parallel of the two brother werewolves killing each other, seduce Dean, and get the all-killing gun from them that Chuck gave Dean to kill Jack and with which Sam shot Chuck. Oh, and she’s not allowed to kill them.

Dean tells her that if Chuck wants the “Equalizer” back (Lilith insists she won’t call it that; I’m totally calling it that now, just for spite), he can come get it himself.

Sam pulls out the Sparkly Spork and Dean an angel blade, but they give her too much time to prepare. She TKs them back, knocking Sam out. Dean appears to panic over Lilith threatening Sam, so to distract her, he says he’ll take her to the Equalizer if she spares Sam.

We get a reiteration that she can’t kill either of them (Chuck has her on a tight leash), but she can make Dean wish he were dead, if he crosses her. Even so, she keeps batting her eyes at him and making come-ons that aren’t particularly reciprocated. In fact, her boast about seducing Dean is rather sad, considering Dean’s facial expressions in her direction while he thought she was alive and still Ashley ranged from pity to annoyance and back again. We know what Dean’s like when he’s attracted to a woman and that ain’t it. And despite his little shrug when she asks him about the possibility after her reveal, there’s no way he’s going to sleep with a demon when he, himself, is not a demon.

Left behind, Sam has a dream in which he is beaten in the Bunker by Demon!Dean (how I missed you, sir!) and then stabbed to death with the First Blade. Sadly, it doesn’t last long – the dream, I mean.

Sam wakes up abruptly, alone in the cabin. He finds the werewolves’ rusty old pickup, and chases after Dean and Lilith.

In the Impala on the way to the motel, Dean actively pumps Lilith for info. She spills even more than he wants to hear. It turns out that she picked poor Ashley because (said in a robotic voice as if quoting Chuck) “of the three potential vessels, she had the nicest hair” (they’re hosts, not vessels, you numpty writers). She died to let Lucifer out of the Cage, which was apparently her greatest wish, for reasons she never makes clear (I never really got what was in all that for her). Now she’s stuck working for Chuck (the “everything planned out for you” line was Chuck’s). She can’t hurt him, but she can hurt Dean.

She also mentions that Chuck has “a pervy, pervy obsession” with Dean. And that Chuck’s favorite story ending is Sam and Dean killing each other. She even lampshades that the two werewolf brothers were “foreshadowing” because it seems the writers think the audience is too stupid to have figured it out for ourselves.

Back at the motel room, Dean balks and says he forgot that the Equalizer isn’t there. I don’t quite understand why Lilith jumped through so many hoops to get back to the place she was just a few hours ago, foreshadowing or no foreshadowing with werewolves, when her main mission was to get the Equalizer. Why not just put Dean to sleep and then ransack the room?

Anyhoo, she starts TK-slashing him in various places to torture him into complying. It doesn’t work, but it gives Sam enough time to come in with a gun and shoot her in the head with a devil’s trap bullet. She is temporarily stuck and the Winchesters flee as soon as she demonstrates that she’s not completely powerless. Sam says he can just kill her again. Lilith begs to differ, saying she “let” Sam kill her before. Oh, honey. You are so dumb, Lilith.

Anyhoo, Dean quickly realizes that they need to get out because she is powerful enough to rid herself of the bullet. Unfortunately, they only get halfway across the parking lot before she does. She freezes them in place and teleports in front of them.

So, after some painfully obvious deduction that the Equalizer isn’t in the motel room, and making a rather large leap of logic that they wouldn’t leave it in the Bunker, she decides it’s in the Impala. And it is. It’s in the glove compartment box.

She melts it right in front of them, to their despair, and then leaves after some gloating that she will “see you soon.” But she doesn’t take the metal, which is, you know, probably still magical.

Back at the Bunker, Sam calls Castiel and tries to warn him about Chuck being back, but it goes to voicemail. Dean comes in with beers and they discuss this latest startling development.

Dean has been holding up well so far this season, but he’s now having a hard time processing that Chuck is back. He tells Sam what Lilith said about one of them killing the other (but not that Chuck is obsessed with Dean). Sam then admits that he’s having dreams about Chuck’s endings and Dean is a tad irritated Sam never mentioned that before. Sam claims he thought it was just PTSD. He thinks the effect has to do with the bullet wound. Maybe Sam is “in [Chuck’s] head.” Sam is all about the plans to use this to their advantage.

Dean, however, is in despair: “How the hell are we supposed to fight God?”

Credits

The show got another 0.3/2 and went back up to 1.30 million in audience.

The preview and synopsis for the next episode (“Golden Time”) is up, as is the one for this week, which is Deancentric and guest-stars Christian Kane. It appears the show will go on Christmas hiatus until January 16 after the December 12 episode (15.08 – “Our Father Who Aren’t in Heaven”), though there’s a rumor one might air on December 19. Even with only 20 episodes in the season, this means over half the season will air in the spring. I sure hope the pace picks up before Christmas hiatus, but with the Nepotism Duo writing the December 12th ep, we’ll be lucky if that one wants us to keep watching at all.

Review: Oh, hi, Dean. Nice to see you in the mytharc again.

It’s frustrating that the newest and (quite frankly) most intriguing part of the storyline by far this week is the part that isn’t lampshaded repeatedly with flashbacks, and on-the-nose dialogue and situations. For example, the episode’s writer, Steve Yockey, flat-out quoted the passage cited in the episode’s title, as if fans were incapable of looking it up for ourselves: “The crucible [is] for silver and the furnace [is] for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” He’s also stated that this is his last episode for the show. Though I enjoyed some of his previous entries, most of this one was a half-cooked slog, so I’m not overly sorry to see him go.

So, we’ll see what actually happens with that one (very significant) bit, which is Lilith’s throwaway line about Chuck’s “pervy, pervy obsession with” Dean. She decidedly does not mean Sam. She has basically no time for Sam these days. In fact, it’s fairly dizzying whether she’s trying to seduce Dean because she’s actually really into Dean now or because Chuck told her to.

This opens an intriguing possibility (which Dean doesn’t see, at least not this week) that Dean might be able to manipulate Chuck. It sure seems more likely to succeed than Sam’s hair-brained idea that Chuck has no idea Sam is in his head, or that Sam could influence Chuck, or even get intel on him. Sam was dead wrong, for example, that Chuck had left the SPNverse building and I see no reason why he’d be right now. Sam’s track record with manipulating powerful beings is downright pitiful, even if the show did decide to leave out the bits of his killing Lilith in season four that included Ruby manipulating him into it.

I also thought it was interesting that while Lilith told Dean Chuck’s favorite ending was one brother killing the other, the emphasis in Sam’s dreams from Chuck was heavily on Sam killing Dean. Even the Demon!Dean sequence had a flavor of warning, of “You’d better kill Dean before he kills you.” It was also the only dream in which the killer brother had a legitimate beef with the other. What Sam did to Dean to “cure” him was nasty and remained largely unaddressed afterward.

But Dean has some high-level notches on his seduction belt and the way he messed with Lilith (in ways she didn’t always notice) this week indicates he hasn’t lost his touch. Chuck’s own sister Amara found Dean immensely more intriguing than her own brother in season 11 (I guess that’s why the show had to write her out in the second episode of this season, huh?). And, of course, there’s the forgotten actual, onscreen toxic romance between Dean and Crowley, in which Dean, like a classic film noir femme fatale, had Crowley twisted right around his finger for years. And everyone noticed, including Crowley, but Crowley couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do a thing about it. So, the idea that Dean could use Chuck’s obsession with him, against Chuck, is not at all far-fetched.

Though I was rolling my eyes pretty hard at the way the episode wanted us to believe that Dean was toxic for poor Ashley. There were some serious plotholes for that character (not least the timeline of when Lilith actually possessed her and how Lilith manipulated the werewolf brothers). But the big one was – since when is Dean the brother who is deadly for his female partners? Seems to me Sam’s the one with the track record in girlfriends who end up roadkill. Dean’s partners have an excellent survival rate and leave pretty satisfied. Not that Dean seemed very interested in sleeping with Ashley.

Woof. Speaking of, I’d forgotten what a prattling, overenunciating moron Lilith was. Sure, she’s an overpowered moron, but the show has gotten to the point where that kind of character no longer impresses. We (and the Brothers) have already encountered far too many other characters who make Lilith look like an insect.

And that’s a lot of the problem. She worked well in context – as the powerful herald to the Devil Himself. But she’s way outta context now. Lucifer himself has been diminished and killed off (though sure, he could still come back from the Empty, though I hope not). And now that she’s working for Chuck, she’s actually less threatening than before because she can’t actually kill Sam and Dean.

It doesn’t help that even now, we still don’t know whatever truly motivated her. Freeing Lucifer was a goal, not a motivation. What did she see in it for her, getting herself killed for the cause? Well, we never found out in “Lucifer Rising” and we didn’t find out this week, either.

She started out on the show as the Devil’s Bitch. Now she’s become his daddy’s bitch. But throughout, she has remained Some More-Powerful Male Character’s Bitch. Unlike Abaddon, who cheerfully caught up to speed after being in a timewarp for half a century and immediately decided to go for being Queen of Hell (because Abaddon began and ended awesomely evil), Lilith is now permanently out of touch and permanently stuck being some dudebro’s disposable right-hand henchwoman. That’s not scary. That’s just sad.

Also, would it kill the writers to remember their own damned canon that people possessed by demons are “hosts” not “vessels,” as Lilith calls the poor kid she’s possessing this week? The actress was actually decent, keeping a clear demarcation between Lilith and poor Ashley, but there wasn’t a whole lot of “there” there for her to work with. The show even seems to want us to forget about that whole “babies on the menu” thing from season four.

So, we see Lilith berating the Brothers for being dumb (because they didn’t – and couldn’t have – anticipate a dead enemy returning from a place dead enemies don’t return from), while doing Very Dumb Things. Yeah, she melts the Equalizer (I’m gonna use that just out of spite because the writers had her hating it), but then she leaves the puddle of metal behind. I mean, it’s not as though the Equalizer was much use to them, anyway, but they might also be able to do something with that puddle of metal (because hello, what is one of Dean’s skills? Metallurgy).

And I was rolling my eyes pretty hard when she was monologuing about all the terrible things she was going to do to them to get the Equalizer, all of two seconds after she admitted that Chuck wouldn’t let her do anything permanent to them, anyway. Plus, by admitting that Chuck brought her back and needed the gun, she ended up giving the Brothers all kinds of intel (including that Chuck was weaker than they previous thought), while getting from them a semi-useless powerful gun that she melted down and then still left in their possession.

Like I said, not very bright. I mean, obviously, she doesn’t really care about the mission in the first place, but she “cared” (i.e., was intimidated by Chuck) enough to agree to do it in the first place to stay out of the Empty. So, maybe do better at it?


One good thing to come out of this was confirmation that it wasn’t just coincidence last season, Chuck honing in on Dean like that. Lilith refers to Chuck’s “pervy, pervy obsession” with Dean. But it sure was a long, boring MOTW slog to get to that one critical scene, the only one that advanced the plot in any significant way. You need to up the pace a bit, Show, both within episodes and with your mytharc.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Atomic Monsters” (15.04) 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.

It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 49 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 16 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 65 total by next April. I currently have 151 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: It’s a full moon over the Bunker, from which echoes gunfire. Inside, it’s down to emergency lighting and a man in a black suit is thrown into a wall at the T-junction of a corridor. His attacker, in stuttering stop-go slo-mo, comes into view. It’s Dean, bearded and looking even more like a survivalist than ever. Dean shoots the man, who then lights up from inside with dying demon light. Seems Dean and his Hunters have figured out how to make demon-killing bullets.

Dean kills some more demons (including multiples) in major badass fashion, steps over a bunch of dead comrades and demons, encounters a living comrade, and ends up in a room with another dying comrade. This one is Benny, but Benny appears to be … human? And beardless. Despite Dean’s reassurances that he will be fine, Benny knows the score. He says, “See you on the other side, brother,” and dies. Upset, Dean grabs a still-alive demon in the room and demands to know where “he” is. The demon tries it on with the snark, instead. Bad call. Dean shoots him in the head, lighting him up like a pinball machine.

Dean comes out into the library/map room to find Sam, all hopped up on demon blood and now superduperduper powerful (and even more irritating than last we saw this permutation of him in season four). Dean tries to talk Sam down as another Hunter tries to sneak up on Sam. But Sam senses the Hunter (even though this was not a talent any psykid ever had) and snaps his neck. Then, he snaps Dean’s and looks smug about it.

The scene jumbles and Sam wakes up in the Bunker. It turns out this was a nightmare (a longer version of the flash he had a couple of episodes ago when Castiel tried to heal his Chuck wound). He’s pretty upset about it.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Dean in the kitchen, quietly eating bacon (by this, I mean that his body language is very still and not just that he isn’t saying anything). Sam comes in, still at loose ends about his dream, but when Dean asks him if he’s okay, Sam brushes it off as just still being at loose ends about Rowena. Yep. He lies to Dean. I’m shocked, too.

Dean suggests Sam eat something, but Sam turns his nose up at Dean’s bacon, even when Dean tells him it’s the “veggie bacon you been asking for.” Okay, first of all, since when is Sam a vegetarian (some LOL!canon from episode writer Davy Perez there)? Second of all, Sam is a grown-ass man in his thirties. If he wants some “veggie bacon” to put in the fridge in Dean’s “Meat Man” kitchen, he can go do his own damned grocery shopping. Jesus, this show fails miserably at propping Sam up, sometimes, and just makes him look like a spoiled child.

On top of this, Dean has to try to buck Sam up, even as he confirms in the dialogue that Sam has been holing up in his room for days, letting Dean haul all the weight. Thanks, Sam.

Dean pulls up a hunt he’s researched and talks a reluctant Sam into going along, instead of Dean handling it himself or going with another Hunter. It’s a story in the Des Moines Herald, about a rash of cattle mutilations and one pretty blonde cheerleader who was “ripped to pieces,” in Beaverdale, Iowa. He also pranks Sam by getting him to eat the “veggie bacon” (yes, it’s really the real thing). The obvious intent is to cheer, or at least irritate, Sam out of his depressive navel-gazing. I mean, hey, it worked in season two.

In front of Beaverdale High School (in that annoying broad daylight that has become the hallmark of this final season), Sam is interviewing the principal, posing as an FBI agent in a suit. She tells him the victim, Susie, was pleasant and popular, involved with everything, with lots of friends and no enemies. When Sam asks about close friends, the principal directs him to a group led by a girl named “Veronica.” Yes, she really does. And really, Perez? It should have been “Heather.”

A middle-aged couple shows up, parents of a male student. The mother (a blonde – I swear they’re all blonde in this episode except for Veronica) is hot for the prayer service to be done and over with so they can get to the important stuff – the lacrosse game where her son is due to impress a visiting talent scout. Both the principal and Sam call Helicopter Mom out on her insensitivity, but that somehow doesn’t quite persuade her to stop being a complete twat. After the parents leave, the principal cynically comments that many of the parents at the high school are like HM.

Sam returns to the Impala, where Dean (also suited up) is eating a bag of chips. Dean’s time has been most productively spent at the morgue. He found a vampire fang and there were no defensive wounds on the victim, indicating she knew whoever killed her. When Sam points out that vampires don’t normally rip apart their victims, Dean says, “Apparently, this one does.”

We’re ten minutes in and all that’s really left to do is figure out who’s the vamp. We get a clue as a mascot in a Beaver suit rides by on a scooter. Dean smiles and comments that this is “awesome.”

Later that night, another blonde cheerleader is heading out to her car after practice, complaining about how “fake” Veronica is in her grief. She is then attacked, mid-scream, by something unseen.

The next day, the Brothers drive out to the woods, to the site where Susie’s body was found. The first thing they notice is that there is hardly any blood – the body was dumped. This is not the original kill site.

After Dean comments that the police are “freaked” by the case, Sam starts whinging about how people in the town are oblivious civilians, that Hunters like the Winchesters have to “carry the weight” of the truth about the world. Right away, Dean pulls out his flask of whiskey and starts drinking. Yeah, I’m hittin’ the hard nog just to get through Sam’s little rant, myself.

Sam gets a call from the principal about the kidnapped girl.

Cut to a guy putting his kids in the car to go camping. Out comes his wife with some motion sickness pills for one of the kids when they ride in a boat. It’s Becky Rosen, y’all, whom we have not seen since season seven. She seems happy in her life, but looking forward to having the house to herself for a few days while her family is off camping.

As the car drives away, Chuck appears on the other side of the street, waving creepily like Pennywise the Clown. Horrified, Becky starts to scamper back into the house, but Chuck runs after her and begs her to let him come in and talk. Rather reluctantly, she lets him in.

In the principal’s office, the principal is filling the Brothers in on the kidnapping of the second cheerleader, whose name is “Tori Taylor” (of course it is). Upon hearing that Tori is also a cheerleader, Dean comments that “someone has a fetish.” This gets the principal’s dander up because criminal profiling isn’t a thing in the SPNverse, anymore, I guess.

Back at Becky’s, Chuck notices a bunch of figures and such that seem related to the Winchester’s story (there are a lot of nice little visual Easter Eggs in this storyline thanks to Ackles’ direction, including a fabulous poster for “A Very Supernatural Christmas” and Funko Pop figurines of Sam, Dean and Castiel). Becky calls them her maquettes. She says that she is the “most successful” creator of “unofficial Supernatural merchandise” in the U.S. and possibly even the world.

She says she’s even continued writing her own fanfic (which Chuck disparages at every opportunity throughout the episode) of the Brothers doing ordinary things like laundry and talking. Chuck doesn’t think that’s very exciting, even after Becky tries to defend it as what fans “really” want to see instead of action, horror and drama.

Becky expresses regret for kidnapping and drugging Sam in “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!” and says that she got a lot of therapy after that. She said she finally realized that she wasn’t in love with the real Sam, but his character. Somehow … that doesn’t sound better. It seems to diminish Sam, somehow, and make him not seem as good as the fantasy.

Anyhoo, Becky has a pretty good sideline business in her fan figurines and she wants to get back to it because she’s behind in her orders. So, she tells Chuck to get to the point or she’ll kick him out. Chuck admits that he “had a falling out” with Sam and Dean, leaving him now “low on resources,” and that when he went to his sister for help, she blew him off. Becky easily sees through this using of her as his last best resort tactic from him and that he wants her to “fluff” him. But she’s not interested. She has a good life and “I don’t need you.”

Chuck whines that that’s the problem. “No one” needs him and “I kinda hate me right now … I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel so lost.” When Becky, now feeling a bit sorry for him, asks him what makes him feel better, he says that “writing” and “creating” do (uh-oh), so she encourages him to do that.

On a stone picnic bench in front of the school, Dean is talking to the mascot, whose name is Toby. Dean is also still eating.

Sam walks up, acting skeptical about Dean befriending the mascot (yeah, Sam’s early-seasons social snobbery is on full display this week). Dean points out that Toby has a full scholarship to Iowa University and is very observant: “He knows a lot about cheerleaders. In a mostly non-creepy sort of way.”

Dean shares a valuable bit of information about the school hierarchy that Toby shared with him – Susie was the Alpha female among the cheerleaders, Tory her second-in-command. Who takes charge now they’re gone? Veronica, of course.

At that moment, Veronica is running the Susie shrine in the gym and talking to a young jock. His name is Billy and it turns out he was Susie’s boyfriend. Veronica puts the heavy moves on him, but Billy’s mom interrupts them. And guess who she is? That’s right. It’s HM.

After Billy leaves with HM, Veronica goes to the podium and starts practicing her eulogy for Susie in a totally fake way. The Brothers enter and Dean alerts her to their presence by sarcastically clapping at her delivery. But as they gear up to take her down with some dead man’s blood (Sam is hiding the ginormous syringe behind his back), Sam notices that she is wearing braces. She can’t “fang out” with those, so they quickly and quietly leave. Outside, Sam thinks up a new lead when he spots a CCTV camera outside the school. Um … wouldn’t they have thought of that right off?

Back at Billy’s house, HM is bitching at him that she had to come into the school to retrieve him. Boy, is she tightly wound. When Dad comes in, she insists he talk to Billy. Dad just says, “Listen to your mother.”

Billy turns and leaves, instead. Mom is irritated and stalks off, declaring that she needs wine (since it seems she’s an alcoholic on top of being a pretentious twat).

Dad starts washing his hands, which are bloody. The camera strolls out through the pristine hallways of the house to the attached garage. In it, kidnapped teen Tori is tied up, with bloody arms, gagged and blindfolded. She wakes up and starts screaming into her gag.

Back at Becky’s, Chuck discovers to his chagrin that Becky doesn’t have anything stronger than cranapple juice. He says that he used to be able “to see Sam and Dean inside my head … just ripe for the picking.” But he can’t do that, anymore (as he talks, he rubs his wound from the magic bullet). Becky guesses that this is because Chuck has lost his Prophet powers and he hedges a yes. What he’s really admitting to is that he’s no longer omniscient.

She suggests he write a different story with different characters. He says he doesn’t want to. He really likes writing about Sam and Dean. She says that he’s basically just stalling (awww, and all for NaNoWriMo, too). After she lectures him sternly about procrastination, Chuck gets a brainwave. To her dismay, he decides to indulge it then and there by sitting down at her laptop and starting a new story.

Back in Beaverdale, the principal is showing the Brothers the CCTV footage. Tori’s kidnapping is clearly shown, but her assailant is wearing a mask and drags her offscreen. However, immediately afterward, another car roars off past hers in the parking lot and Sam gets the license plate number.

Back at Billy’s, he’s having a fight with his parents, especially his mom. She lays this huge guilt trip on him about all the “sacrifices” they made for him, but her intensity remains unexplained. She just comes off as unhinged, hyper-controlling and annoying as hell. She even gets all weepy and leaves the room. Dad asks him what he wants. Billy angrily says that he doesn’t want “any of this” and never did.

The doorbell rings and it’s the Brothers. As they come in, the girl in the garage starts struggling again. Dad sends Billy upstairs. Sam and Dean accuse Dad of being the vampire, though they initially just accuse him of kidnapping the girls. Tori knocks something down in the garage and Sam goes to investigate, as Dean continues to interrogate Dad, pulling out a machete.

Sam unties the dazed girl, who is attached to a blood bag, and starts to pick her up. But Evil Bitch Mom shows up with a gun and forces them to come back inside the house. Boy, is Dean disappointed when it turns out Sam couldn’t even watch his own back, let alone Dean’s. Though he does ask how the girl is doing. Sam says, “Not good,” as he lays her on the couch.

Dad tries to talk Crazy Mom into letting him take the fall. After all, gunfire would bring down real law enforcement and then things would get ugly.

Back at Becky’s, Becky is reading what Chuck just wrote and is not impressed. She tries to pretend that she likes it, but Chuck sees through her act. She finally admit that the villains are boring and the story is “low stakes … no Classic Rock. Nobody even mentions Cas.” Not his best.

Chuck gets an ugly look on his face: “You want jeopardy? You want danger?” He evicts her from her chair and then starts writing again: “I’ll give you danger.”

The impasse at the ‘rents’ house is fairly brief, since Billy comes back downstairs. Staring at Dad, Dean floats the Brothers’ theory that Dad is the vampire. But Sam then guesses it’s actually Billy.

Billy admits that after he was turned into a vampire (it’s not made clear how or exactly when), he tried to make do with cows (hence the cattle mutilations). But as he was making out with Susie in his truck one night, he lost control. He ended up killing her. Dean then guesses that the parents chopped Susie up and dumped her body in the woods.

Dad starts burbling on about how Dean doesn’t understand their motives because he’s never had a child (oh, so much clueless irony) and Mom is all for murdering the Brothers and burying them out back, “under the peonies.” These two have totally lost the plot.

Fortunately, Billy gets them to stand down and points out that it’s not going to work. He loved Susie and he killed her, and he knows he will kill again: “I’m a monster.”

He tells his parents to take the girl to the hospital, to blame the attack and kidnapping on him. He then tells them he is going to “take a ride” with Sam and Dean. Turning to them, he says, “Isn’t that how this works?”

Cue a montage (to Radio Company’s “Sounds of Someday”) of Tori being carried off to the hospital, while the teary-eyed parents (who really should have been horribly offed) give the police Billy’s photo, and of Dean beheading Billy out in the woods, while a pensive Sam watches.

Back at Becky’s, Chuck has finished and he looks all post-coital about it. Oh, this can’t be good. Becky’s just read the new stuff and she hates it. She thinks it’s “dark … horrible … hopeless.” Chuck is fine with that. His perfect image for his story is of a tombstone with just one name – Winchester – on it.

Becky’s family arrives home in the middle of this. Right before her husband walks in, Becky tells Chuck to leave (because explaining what your creepy ex is doing alone in the house with you, while your husband and kids were off on vacation, would be very awkward). But Chuck, all smiling and satisfied, says he’s fine where he is. As Becky begs “please” in a whisper, in walks her husband. He has just enough time to look confused at Chuck’s presence and cheery, sarcastic wave, before Chuck snaps his fingers and makes him dissolve in dust. The kids are noisily coming in and Chuck snaps them out of existence, too. Becky reacts in visceral horror to the erasures of her family.

Chuck smugly tells her that her family is not “dead, just away.” Then he tells her he’s God. Becky doesn’t believe this at first, but then quickly devolves into anger and then begging for Chuck to “bring them back,” saying “You can’t do this!”

“Oh, Becky,” Chuck says, as he snaps her out of existence, too, “I can do anything. I’m a writer.”

In the final car scene, Sam’s takeaway from the hunt, and Billy’s mom and dad’s shitty parenting, is that he and Dean would have done the same thing for Jack ([facepalm] Oh, Sam, come on). Rather noncommittally, Dean agrees, but says that he wanted to get them out on a hunt so that they could show they still make a difference. Dean insists they’re “free” now Chuck is gone. He mentions Rowena and Mary among their losses, in addition to Jack, but not Castiel. Some fans got chapped about this, but remember that Castiel isn’t dead. And that Sam apparently does not know that Castiel has bailed on them. Therefore, Castiel doesn’t belong on that list of dead (mostly female) allies.

Whiny Sam still manages to make it All About himself, saying he’s not able to let any of his old trauma go. Hell, he still thinks about Jessica. I should have been like “awww,” but to be honest, this whole speech sounded a tad pathetic in a “Don’t use Billy’s ‘rents as moral examples, Sam” kind of way.

Meanwhile, now alone at Becky’s, Chuck is writing more story and sneering evilly, while Sam and Dean dolls bobblehead on the desk next to him, beside a model tree and on top of a devil’s trap.

Credits

The episode got a 0.3/2 and dropped to 1.10 million in audience. Kind of a shame for Jensen Ackles’ last episode, though the DVR ratings will probably go up considerably (they’re not out, yet).

The preview and synopsis for the next episode are up.

Review: I … don ‘t know how I feel about this episode. I disliked the script – as in, a whole lot. And it did nothing whatsoever to restore my confidence that the show’s current writers have a clue what they’re doing. But the direction? Well, the direction deserved a better script and in the places where director Jensen Ackles got to do his thing, it worked very well. Also, there was some really good acting.

But boy, that script. Yuck. Also, I have no idea why it’s called “Atomic Monsters.” No one else seems to know, either.

There’s a small scene in the middle that sums up my ambivalence. The Brothers are outside the car in that annoying s15 broad daylight, in suits, talking about the case. This quickly devolves into Sam complaining about how oblivious the civilians on the case are to all the supernatural horror around them. When Dean points out that Sam used to want to be just like them (Dean doesn’t say “social climbing” and “elitist,” but it’s true), Sam’s grousing turns bitter and he mopes about all that they’ve lost.

Meanwhile, Dean is mmm-hmming and pulling out his ubiquitous flask of booze for a few hefty swigs. And not once does Sam notice that his brother is hitting the bottle (and though he does notice Dean eating a lot, he doesn’t put two and two together and realize that Dean is eating a lot). It’s a nicely understated scene about how each brother is (not) coping, but I find myself wondering if all of the stuff about Dean’s nonverbal non-coping was in the direction because the rest of the script is all Tralalalala Puir Sammy and Sam’s own obliviousness to Dean’s drinking makes Sam look like a tool.

It doesn’t help that what Dean is eating in that first scene after the credits is Mary’s favorite food – bacon. There he is, quietly mourning his mother (all over again) by eating breakfast as if she were still there. Not only doesn’t Sam notice that, but he downmouths the very idea of eating bacon that isn’t the veggie burger kind (he even gags when he realizes it’s the real thing). Nor does he mention Mary, since he’s too wrapped up in bemoaning having to put Rowena down like Old Yeller last week and is still hung up on the death of Mary’s murderer, whom he still insists on seeing as a foster son. And what does Dean do? Try to cheer Sam up by turning it into a prank. And does Sam respond? Nope. His head is too far up his own ass even to notice what Dean is trying to do.

It’s not that Sam isn’t sad or depressed, but when the story puts him next to someone who is just as sad and depressed, yet not only is Dean getting out there and taking care of business, but he’s also getting out there and taking care of Sam’s business for him, while Sam stays in his room and mopes, it makes it hard for me to care about Sam’s epic manpain.

Probably the best scene is the opening teaser, which turns out to be Sam’s dream (and possible vision of another reality that Chuck created). But again, this points up the deficits of the script. Jensen Ackles has said he asked to expand what was originally on the page into an extended fight scene. I’m not gonna lie – that scene is a thing of violent, tragic beauty. It’s basically Dean in a last stand with his Hunter team, who are loyal to him and who include a dying Benny, against Sam and a bunch of smarmy demons. Ackles directs action very well and the show’s still got a good crew to back him up.

But it suffers from the same flaw that “The End” did back in season five. It pits a fascinatingly flawed and scarred EndTimes!Dean against a bland Superpowerful Sam. And that version of Sam makes drying paint look action-packed. Nickifer had a character arc, so he could stick around for a while (too long, imho, but he did have a point and was scary for a while). But Samifer is simply the end result of Sam saying yes and the closer Sam got to being Lucifer’s vessel, the less of a personality he had (and what he retained was really unpleasant). At the point Lucifer possesses him in these AUs, Sam “dies” permanently and ceases to exist. Samifer, being Dean’s bane, then kills Dean. Except as an endgame character, Samifer has no point. So, once he shows up, the clock starts running on the fun because the moment he snaps Dean’s neck, the moment’s over. Mixing it up by having him “still” be Sam, but hopped up on demon blood, doesn’t improve matters.

And yet, as Ackles’ account heavily implies, the entire simplistic point of this scene was to get to that moment.

Another nice Easter egg of the episode was the montage near the end where the Brothers dispatch the MOTW. I was not the least bit impressed by the shallow, rich parents (that pains me, because I like Duncan Fraser). They came off as shrill and obnoxious, having no rational backstory for their delusional obsession with killing to protect their son (was this a metaphor for young athletes who are rapists or murderers or what?). It felt like a lazy stab at the recent college admissions scandal, but instead, we got stuck with a paint-by-numbers hunt involving an upper-class school, with cheerleaders and jocks, and a lot of shallow misogyny. Poor Susie barely exists except as a victim for her sympathetic-monster boyfriend to accidentally rip apart and Tori is basically a Damsel in Distress/blood bag.

There was a possibility here to tell an elegiac story in memorial for Rowena that highlighted her growth from an uncaring to an obsessive to a grieving mother, who eventually grew into a heroic figure. The script could have made into a metaphor of comparison the parents and their misogynistic focus on literally using dead girls’ bodies to save their son and fuel his sports career. But I sense that kind of depth never once occurred to Perez and the others in the writers room. They were too busy with their obvious and self-congratulatory meta involving Chuck the Writer Stand-In being an Angry God.

It’s not even that the ‘rents’ sociopathic self-absorption is left to subtext or metaphor – the script doesn’t address it at all. When Daddy and Mommy Dearest were whining that only a parent could understand why they cut up an innocent girl to cover for their son, and kidnapped another innocent girl to feed him with her blood, I kept wondering why no one else suggested they try that line on with Susie or Tori’s parents. See how forgiving they’d be.

The son was sympathetic, if only because he met the minimum requirements of decent human behavior that his parents didn’t, by not running from or fighting his fate in the form of the Brothers Winchester. He went to his death, knowing it was the right thing. But with how clearly the script wants us to perceive Billy, it’s that much more frustrating how vague and unsatisfying the writing is for his parents. Are we supposed to see them as evil? If so, why aren’t they messily dead by the end of the episode? If the script wants us to see them as desperate and confused, why are they so damned unsympathetic?

Bleah.

But the montage of Dean beheading Billy to Radio Company‘s mournful and bluesy “Sounds of Someday” was surprisingly effective. For those who have been hiding under a rock, Radio Company is the pairing between Ackles and his friend Steve Carlson, and Ackles sings lead vocals on this song. All that said, this isn’t just product placement or substituting soundtrack music for a rock standard. The song actually works with the montage. There’s a bleak, 70s roadhouse sound to it, with vaguely apocalyptic lyrics that set a mood rather than narrate a story.

I have mixed feelings about the scenes between Becky and Chuck. As much as I love the acting between them (Emily Perkins really nails Becky’s hard-won Soccer Mom maturity, and then her fear and despair as Chuck rips the veil off the true state of her universe in an almost Lovecraftian way), I still hate, hate hate the idea of Chuck as God. The more we dig into this storyline, the more I dig my heels in to resist it.

In order for the Winchesters to have any chance to beat him, then God has to become … well … not really God, anymore. He can’t be omniscient because then he’d anticipate every single thing they ever did or thought, or ever could do or think. He can’t be omnipotent, because then there’d be no way to beat him. He can’t be omnipresent or omnitemporal because then he’d be everywhere and everywhen, and not allow this situation to occur in the first place because he would have seen it coming billions of years away.

So, if he’s none of those things, how can he be God? Okay, he created the SPNverse, but that just makes him a demiurge, not God with a capital G. And Amara can’t be God, either, because she’s not omniscient. I’m still hoping there will be some twist in all this – such as that the Chuck we’ve seen since last season’s finale is actually the Empty Entity (since his current nihilistic attitude reflects the persona of the Empty Entity much more than what we’ve seen of Chuck over the years), but it still begs the question of why the “real” Chuck didn’t foresee this.

I get the impression, thanks to their constant obsession with the Thanos storyline in the Marvel films (and Andrew Dabb’s background in comics), that the writers are under the delusion that movie Thanos is a good villain. Lordie, no. Enough about that damned finger snap.

Thanos is a one-note antagonist, about on the level with a natural disaster but somehow less compelling. That’s why he gets killed off so early in the latest film. Thanos is simply not that interesting, even including his creepy relationship with his forcibly adopted daughters. What is interesting is how various characters react to the destruction that one snap (and how Thanos got the stones to make it happen) causes. So, modeling Chuck (a character who, to this point, has actually been fairly mysterious if not the least bit ineffable) after Thanos is a major mistake.

The question arises, “Why all the puppet strings?” Why does Chuck need to write a story in order to manipulate the Winchesters into doing what he wants? I mean, I get why that would work with Sam. Sam’s entire story has been about how he rebelled against one script (the Family Business and John’s blue collar revenge quest), only to find his very rebellion was another, deeper script being written by demons at Lucifer’s behest.

And I also get why it would work with Castiel. Castiel, as an angel, basically didn’t have any Free Will during his first appearances and we discover later that every time in the past he’d gotten some, it was erased by more angelic programming. Chuck was usually the one who kept bringing him back, so the subsequent chaos he sowed had to be been part of Chuck’s plan.

As for Jack, Chuck admitted outright in last season’s finale that Jack’s conception and birth and supposedly chaotic rampage of childish power were nothing more than an assassination attempt on Dean. As soon as Dean threw down the Equalizer gun and refused to shoot Jack, Jack became surplus to requirements. With a snap of his fingers, Chuck smote him. Even after Sam shot Chuck in revenge and made him angry, Chuck still had more than enough power to open all the gates of Hell. Jack, far from how he’d been built up over two seasons, was never a threat to his grandfather.

But that’s the thing – Chuck can smite anyone. He should be able to pop up in the Bunker at any time and kill everyone there. I mean, look what he did to Becky and her family.

What was so chilling about the acting and direction of the rather simplistic scriptwriting for their scenes was how we saw that Becky had grown up and was now happy, only to have her creepy ex pop in after he’d ghosted her nearly a decade before. Then slowly, in an increasingly dark sequence that felt like a predator stalking an unsuspecting and totally helpless prey, we saw Becky’s dawning horror as she realized that not only was Chuck God, but he really was The Monster At The End Of This Book. And then he smote her (yeah, I know he claimed that he didn’t actually kill her and her family, but they sure aren’t in the story, anymore).

So, why, when it comes to the Winchesters, is he writing a story, instead? We had this self-indulgent bullshit in season nine with Metatron and it was pretty tedious. And yeah, having Chuck the Author Insert smiting Becky the Fandom Insert was pretty mean-spirited (also inaccurate, since Dabb & Co. don’t have jobs without an audience). Authors, just because you’re building the world and creating the characters, that does not make you God in the story. Resist the urge to self-insert like that.

But we’re stuck with that concept here and therefore, we must wrestle with it [downs more rum and eggnog]. Why is Chuck pulling a Bond Villain and writing a story about the Winchesters instead of just visiting the Bunker, a-smitin’ as he goes, like not-quite-Samifer in the episode’s teaser? If he’s that mad at them, why give them a chance to wriggle out of his trap and get him back? Didn’t he already learn from Sam shooting him last season?

See, that’s the thing – Sam and Castiel may have proven unable to break free from Chuck’s predestination all their existence, but this is categorically not true for Dean. Dean has broken free of Chuck’s story at least three times and the third time was the end of last season. There’s been a lot of fan focus on Sam shooting Chuck (which took Chuck by surprise), but this was something that occurred in the wake of Dean taking Chuck by surprise by refusing to shoot Jack, and Chuck flipping the table over it.

It wasn’t until Dean flatly rejected Chuck’s order to pick up the gun and shoot Jack that Chuck smote Jack himself. Yeah, Chuck threw a tantrum after Sam shot him, but Sam didn’t shoot Chuck until after Dean defied him and after Chuck smote Jack. The decision that kicked things off was Dean refusing to bow to Chuck’s story, to Chuck’s will, even after Chuck switched to bargaining and offered Mary back (and why did he even need to bargain with Dean when he could smite Jack himself at any time?).

So, even if Chuck writes another story, Dean is bound to disobey and change it at some point. Because that’s just how Dean rolls. And once Dean rolls that way, it allows other characters (like Sam) also to break free. Why is Chuck choosing, again, to go this route? Why not just smite Dean? Dean even asked him why he didn’t do that and Chuck only tossed him into a tombstone after Dean physically went after him. That’s what gave Sam the opening to pick up the gun and shoot Chuck.

The thing with Becky (and what’s so bleak about it) is that to her, of course, she was the Hero of the story. Chuck brutally disabused her of that notion and casually swept her off the board. After all, she knows his current plan and might warn Sam and Dean about it. But also, he did it just because he could. And that begs the biggest question – why can’t he just do that to Sam and Dean?


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Raising Hell” (15.02) Live Recap Thread


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It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 51 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 18 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 70 total by next April. I currently have 151 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Recap of events up to this point. No rock music this time to distract from the stupidity.

Cut to Now in Harlan, KS, where a soccer mom is sneaking back into town to get her daughter’s asthma meds (why didn’t she grab them when she evacuated?) after dark. This woman is so dumb that when her very tall neighbor pops up in his bathrobe, she starts babbling small talk about her daughter’s spelling bee instead of being alarmed. It’s only when he walks toward her, never speaking, that she gets confused. By then, it’s too late. He stabs her to death.

Then he collapses as a ghost dusts out of him. The one looks like an Old West sheriff. In a Southern accent, he spells out the word “disembowel,” which is what he just did to the woman.

Cue title cards.

Back at the makeshift shelter in the local high school, Castiel is telling Sam that Doomed Teaser Soccer Mom (named “Nan”) is missing. Sam asks a nearby Hunter who has come in to help them with this latest apocalypse to go find out what’s happening with that. Then Sam gets up to make the least inspired speech ever to the restless townspeople, who all have questions he can’t answer. And why is Sam suddenly so socially awkward?

Meanwhile, Dean is being far more effective, patrolling the border of the town with Belphegor. Dean questions again why Belphegor is helping TFW and Belphegor says he just wants to put Hell back the way it was.

Their conversation is interrupted by a ghost trying the barrier. Dean comments that means it’s holding and Belphegor points out that won’t last. Dean shoots the ghost and it’s the one from the teaser. Belphegor identifies him as Frances Tumblety, AKA Jack the Ripper. Aside from the fact that Tumblety is one of the less credible candidates for Jack, he also was the son of Irish immigrants and grew up in Upstate New York. Bottom line? He would not sound Southern. But sure, Show, let’s just handwave that and make the quintessential British serial killer an American gentleman from the South. Why not?

Cut to daytime at the school auditorium, with three more moronic civilians deciding to sneak in and find DTSM. And sneak in they do, this time in broad daylight. [facepalm]

Meanwhile, Jack (the Ripper) is having a meeting with some seriously solid-looking and unscary ghosts. There’s a brief opportunity (when a ghost looks out an upstairs window when viewed from the street) to show her fading out from it. But aside from a brief shot of someone flickering down the staircase (in about the least scary way possible), these ghosts look like the living, but in stage makeup. Yay.

JacktR’s master plan? To break out of the barrier and engage in more murderous shenanigans. Just … you know … worldwide. In other words, he doesn’t really have a plan aside from breaking out. Strike Two and a whiff at making a situation, that should have been terrifying, even remotely chill-inducing.

As they sneak in, the village idiots hear the Hunters they evaded shooting at some ghosts. Then they encounter some more ghosts. They are shocked and scared, but it’s a little late. Especially since they don’t then do anything intelligent. Like run.

Back at the school, Sam and Castiel are arguing about what to tell the townspeople. Sam insists they can’t tell them anything about what’s really happening because the civilians are “barely holding it together.” Hmm, not so much, Sam. I see no evidence of that. If anything, they’re in a quite-cheerful-and-ridiculously-dangerous denial bubble that needed popping last week.

Rowena arrives in the middle of this: “Am I interrupting something juicy?”

So, the plan they want help from her about is to get her to create another crystal like the soul bomb they were going to use on Amara back in season 11. Rowena isn’t so sure she can pull that off a second time (also, was it really necessary to give Rowena a Dumb on Cue moment where Sam tells her that ghosts are souls, when she knew that in season 11?).

The conversation is interrupted by my favorite remaining Redshirt Hunter left alive popping up and saying they’ve got a problem. She then, alas, promptly disappears from the episode, but hey, at least the actress gets paid more for having a line than not. And we now have confirmation the character survived Rowena!Michael’s rampage last season.

Sam comes rushing out to the barrier, where Dean and Belphegor are looking at DTSM’s husband and their neighbor, who got ambushed by ghosts in the previous scene. Despite their obviously being possessed, Sam tries to reason with them and Dean gets smacked with a plot anvil to say, “They’re possessed!” when they start bleeding black goo tears.

JacktR appears out of nowhere. He demands that TFW let him and the other ghosts out, or he’ll kill the civilians. The possessing ghosts start ripping into the guts of the possessed people. Rather than having Sam and Dean solve this one the way they usually one (a saltgun charge to the chest), this is a moment for Ketch to make a grand entrance with a fancy new gun that shoots iron flakes that de-possess people. ‘Cause why use something that’s worked for 14 seasons when you can just make up something complicated and new?

Anyhoo, the gun works and all three ghosts flee while the civilians collapse. We never find out if they survived or not. In fact, they are not mentioned again.

FYI, if you’re not a fan of Ketch popping in like this, don’t worry. This is almost the last time he’ll get to be smart in the episode.

While explaining all this backstory (and that he “liberated” the gun from the LoL), Ketch flirts with Rowena (who, if you’ll recall, he once tortured and got a life-preserving spell from in exchange for her freedom). Despite their ugly history, she’s into it. Oh, boy. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Hurrying on, Belphegor comes in and introduces himself, and the Brothers explain that Chuck killed Jack (not the Ripper). Everyone besides Belphegor looks far more downcast than pretty much anyone in the room besides Sam likely would truly feel. Then Ketch admits with some chagrin that he’s there to assassinate Belphegor on behalf of a demon named Ardat (in real-world mythology, an Ancient Sumerian demon who may be another name for Lilith, so she probably knew Belphegor when they were human). Because the show just barely remembered that demons got kicked out of Hell, too, but not that most of these ghosts would also be demons by now.

Somewhere in Nevada, Amara is having a massage when she’s startled by her brother Chuck (who smites her masseuse and replaces her). She’s not thrilled to see Chuck. After Chuck starts babbling about how great the Game of Thrones ending was (please tell that was sarcasm, Show), she cuts him short and demands to know why he’s bothering her when they agreed “to give each other space.”

At the school, yet another idiot civilian is whinging to Castiel about the missing people and saying that TFW promised to keep them safe. Well, yeah, but not from your own stupidity, dude. The angelic eyeroll Castiel makes as he walks away is pretty epic, old school Castiel.

Meanwhile, Dean is grumbling in surprise to Rowena over the list of ingredients for the soul catcher (that’s what he ends up calling it). This confuses me. Wouldn’t Dean already have a good idea what the ingredients were from the last time Rowena made one?

Rowena asks him about Ketch (yep, they’re going down that rabbit hole). Dean tells her to keep her eyes on the apocalypse and find someone less creepy than Ketch to bed. He doesn’t mention the whole “Ketch banged my mom” thing, but you could say that’s in character.

As Dean goes off to do something alone in a room, Castiel comes in and they have A Talk. Castiel apologizes about not warning Dean and Sam about Jack Sue going off the rails before he murdered Mary. Dean tells him to stop.

Dean, as it turns out, is having a much worse existential crisis than “just” losing his mother or being mad at Castiel about it. He argues that it’s now clear that Chuck engineered everything about their lives, that Free Will is an illusion, and that they never had any choice. They were always just “rats in a maze.”

Castiel disagrees. Even though he’s angry at Chuck for killing Jack Sue. He insists that there is something still real: “We are.”

A lot of Destielers think this means the show finally made Destiel “real.” Except, not really. At no point in the conversation are Castiel and Dean talking about their friendship, relationship, bond, whatever you call it. You need some kind of anchor for the subtext and it’s just not there.

It’s clear that Castiel means that the “rats” are real, even if Chuck manipulated them six ways to Sunday, not that he and Dean have a true gay love that can pierce the bonds of death or the Fourth Wall. I’m not saying the show has never “gone there” (boy, did it ever go there in “Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets”), just that this is not one of those times.

Cut to night outside. Dean is patrolling with Ketch (why is Sam not doing any patrolling? Or, for that matter, Castiel?). Dean gives Ketch an ugly iron necklace to prevent possession. They talk some more about Chuck (whom Ketch always thought was “theoretical, more rumor than fact”) and then Ketch asks about Rowena. Oh, God, really, Show?

Fortunately, Dean gets a text alert that two Hunters have disappeared on patrol. So, they investigate a creepy warehouse (and don’t find the Hunters). Dean’s breath mists up. First Ketch and then Dean get knocked about by Lizzie Borden. But she’s called off by another ghost. Who turns out to be Ghost!Kevin.

Kevin is friendly and reasonably sane. He tells Dean he was going to contact them sooner, but he “just got here.” He breaks the bad news to Dean that Chuck sent him to Hell after promising to take him to Heaven – for reasons that remain entirely murky for the rest of the episode. The general theory in-show seems to be that Chuck did it for kicks. Kevin also warns them that he can feel the ghost warding fading. We never do find out what happened to those Hunters.

It turns out that because Chuck himself cast Kevin down, he has some scary rep with the ghosts that allows him some control. Dean suggests Kevin go undercover for them and Kevin smiles.

Back at Amara’s … hotel room? … Chuck has ordered a burger and is watching TV, but gets restless when it doesn’t arrive right away. Surely, he could just make his own waitstaff and his own burger.

Amara is trying to ignore him by doing yoga as he babbles on about being “on an extended break from my omniscient benevolence.” He wants the two of them to leave the world behind, even go to another dimension. Amara says no, that she has no interest in spending any time with him.

After some confusion, she realizes that he needs her for the first time ever (and he calls her his “big sis”). She touches his shoulder and sees the wound Sam shot him with. She realizes he’s “not at full strength” and is “afraid.” Chuck doesn’t look thrilled at her epiphany.

So, the next day, Sam and Dean are out patrolling again. Oh, hey, Sam does do that. As Sam dithers about the drawbacks of having Kevin go undercover, Dean points out their options are limited.

Sam snaps at Belphegor when the demon appears behind them, and complains that the warding is fading. When Dean tells the demon to charge it back up, Belphegor says that’s not possible with this kind of spell. Also, when Dean tells him they’re going to send Kevin up to Heaven afterward, Belphegor says that’s not possible. Once you go to Hell, you go to Hell. John and Bobby (Dean doesn’t mention himself) were exceptions that Chuck made himself. No one but Chuck can make exceptions.

Meanwhile, Chuck is exposing his wound, which is a twin to Sam’s, and touches it. He winces and in Harlan, so does Sam. Dean notices and doesn’t believe Sam’s protests that it’s “getting better.”

Back at the suburban house, JacktR is getting the other ghosts to try to break through the barrier as it weakens. Kevin ghosts in at that point. Kevin challenges JacktR, but it doesn’t go well. It turns out JacktR isn’t very impressed by Kevin and he knows Kevin was a Prophet who worked with the Winchesters. Kevin ends up their prisoner.

Back at the school, Rowena is cooking things up for her spell, and talking about right-brain vs. left-brain with Ketch. They flirt heavily (with some pretty bad double entendre dialogue nobody needed to hear and some terrible Bow Chicka Wow Wow soundtrack music). Ketch even finds a shortcut in her research that really turns Rowena on (and will be the last time in the episode that he’s smart).

Fortunately for the audience, Dean calls at that moment, pretty literally cock-blocking this interaction.

Cut to Rowena trotting down the street with a bag. For some reason (plot stupidity, it seems), she crosses through the barrier as a shortcut. JacktR shows up, and tells her to go tell Sam and Dean that he has Kevin and is willing to trade. Or something. It turns out he has a history with Rowena and that she barely survived their “relationship” a century and a half ago. Ketch shows up and tells Rowena to run, then shoots JacktR. But JacktR appears behind him and knocks him out as Rowena runs away.

So, Rowena gets to the Brothers and tells them the news. They show up at the house where the ghosts are holed up. JacktR starts “eating” Kevin in front of Sam and Dean to force them to comply with his demands, but it’s a trap. Rowena comes in with Castiel, and the soul catcher and gets most of the ghosts (but not Jack and three others). Rowena admits afterward that this crystal is less powerful than the last one and can only catch some ghosts at a time (why not use the original one?).

Back behind the barrier, Dean and Belphegor are talking about how its fading. Ketch shows up from inside the barrier, apparently okay. Dean shoots through the barrier at the ghosts, hitting some of them. Rowena and Castiel show up, and Rowena enters the barrier to suck up more ghosts. Ketch is standing beside her. It works … until Ketch backhands Rowena and grabs the crystal. He’s possessed by JacktR. The three other ghosts who escaped the house with him also show up, but they just stand there, grinning.

Unfortunately for Ketch!JacktR, he indulges in a bit of monologuing about how the crystal gives him the power to blow out the barrier. And gloating when Dean’s saltgun runs out. But Dean then just pulls out his pistol and shoots Ketch in the shoulder, twice. The crystal flies out of Ketch’s hand and Dean catches it. As JacktR morphs out of a collapsing Ketch, Dean hands the crystal to Rowena, who uses the crystal on the angry ghosts, with special venom reserved for JacktR.

We get little chance for suspense about whether Ketch is really dead. After the commercial break, he’s on a stretcher, going away in an ambulance as Dean sort-of (but not really) apologizes for shooting him with iron bullets. Ketch says, well, Dean killed him once, already, and he must have been “itching to do it again.” Except that Dean didn’t kill Ketch last time. That was Mary.

Castiel tries to heal Ketch’s wound, but worriedly admits to Sam afterward that he can’t. Sam shrugs it off as everyone being tired.

Ketch and Rowena share a lingering look as he’s put in the ambulance. Then she and Dean share a look. Yeah, we really didn’t need that subplot.

In the coda, Sam tells Dean that Kevin wants to leave the barrier. Kevin says he’d rather take his chances going crazy in the world than go back to Hell. It turns out that Belphegor can make a small hole in the barrier (but he can’t power it back up? Okay). Kevin says goodbye to the Brothers and says, “Love you guys.” Then he goes out through the hole and disappears. Belphegor, by the way, is inside the barrier with the Brothers when Kevin leaves. Wouldn’t he, too, be stuck inside it?

Cut to Amara, who has power-suited up and is heading out. She says she’s willing to co-exist with Chuck, just not in the same part of the multiverse. She’s guessed that he is way powered down (only able to “do a few parlor tricks”) and can’t leave the Earth without her help. She says she’s changed, but he hasn’t. She’s ditching him and gloats a bit that she’s now sealing him away as he once did her. She tells him he’s “got what you always wanted – you’re on your own.” And she leaves.

Back at the barrier, ghost fireballs are bombarding it. It’s weakening. Everyone, including Sam, looks at Dean and says they have to stop the ghosts from getting out. Dean’s like, “How?!”

Credits

The show got a 0.3/2 and 1.16 million in audience. Yes, that is another series low in audience, but the show still tied with Arrow for second place in demo and came in third in audience behind The Flash and Batwoman. I think it was one of only three CW shows last week to top a million. ‘Cause that’s how the CW rolls these days.

The preview for next week is up.

Review: Lord, was that one sure daft. I mean, it passed the time well enough, I guess, but it was frequently stupid. And busy. This writing duo has surely written worse, but then, we are talking about the same duo that thought a story involving a black woman in a dog collar, who was literally a dog and whose master was white, would somehow not be problematical at all. And then we had last week’s episode. So, that bar was already Limbo-low.

The episode had plotholes and changed-up canon galore, and an awful lot of characters on both sides of the story acting stupid just to move things along. Others were simply dropped with no resolution to their subplot, such as DTSM’s husband (who may or may not now be dead) and daughter (who may or may not now be an orphan, but is certainly now motherless since TFW found her mother’s body offscreen), or the two Hunters who disappeared through a plothole in a warehouse, never to be heard from again.

Then there was that moment when Ketch accused Dean of killing him once, already. While Dean has certainly tried, multiple times, to kill Ketch, it was Dean’s mother Mary who actually succeeded. And while I don’t mind Rowena getting her freak on however she wants, having her hook up with the male GOTW every time, just because, is kinda gross and demeaning for her character. What, it’s okay to trash Dean for hooking up with random women (which he hardly does anymore, anyway), but when Rowena does it, she gets a fandom High Five? Really?

Not to mention that Rowena’s being into Ketch after his torturing her in their last encounter isn’t kinky. It’s just nasty. We already know what Ketch torturing a woman he’s attracted to looks like and we saw Mary trying to shoot herself to get out of the situation. Oh, hell, no. Rowena deserves better. And, as Dean pointed out, higher standards.

I’m not entirely sure where the show is going with all these guest stars. There’s a distinct possibility that Rowena will check out of Hotel Winchester permanently next episode. But whether we’ve seen the last of Ketch (who is still alive, though with a wound Castiel can’t heal) and Kevin (who is a ghost, but still “alive” as a character in the story) is unclear. And I don’t think it’s unclear for the sake of suspense. I think it’s unclear for the same reason we never found out what happened to most of the redshirt characters this week – lazy and sloppy writing. The calling card of the Nepotism Duo who wrote this episode, but also business as usual for the writers room under their questionable leadership.

There are two fan misconceptions that have come out of this episode. I mentioned the first one, already – that when Castiel said that “we” were “real” to Dean’s “rats in a maze” speech, there’s no actual indication that he was talking about his relationship with Dean. He just meant that Free Will was a real thing for Chuck’s creatures, even if Chuck has manipulated them a lot and frequently acted as a puppet master.

I can’t say that I’ve been impressed by what we’ve got of either Dean or Castiel so far this season, let alone of them together. Mostly, they grump at each other about Jack. Dean saves the day (after all the guest star grandstanding this week and obsession with Sam’s new Speshul Storyline, ruthlessly save the day is precisely what Dean did). Castiel tries to heal people and can’t (or hovers over Rowena’s shoulder for some reason). I sure hope things pick up for both of them or this is gonna be a very long season.

The other misconception is about Sam’s wound. I see a lot of spec that Sam will get special, even godlike, superpowers from his connection to Chuck. While I wouldn’t put anything past these writers, that’s not how the connection has been set up so far. Chuck said last season about his weapon that whatever was visited on the person shot by the gun would also be visited on the shooter. Dean suggested the example that if the person shot died, so would the shooter, and Chuck confirmed this.

The thing is that in order for Sam to gain powers from Chuck, there would need to be a transfer of power. But in Chuck’s explanation, that’s not the case. Instead, it’s a transfer and sharing of damage from the gun. It’s more like sympathetic magic (sticking a pin in an object to cause harm to a person the object represents) than the vampiric power transfer of power this fan theory assumes.

While Chuck is definitely getting weaker, that doesn’t mean Sam is getting stronger. There’s no evidence that Sam is becoming, let alone replacing, Chuck, just that he is sharing Chuck’s growing pain and weakness.

This brings up a rather disturbing idea – is Chuck dying? If so, will the balance between Light and Dark be disrupted, destroying the SPNverse? Did Sam’s impulsive stupidity just doom the world (wouldn’t be the first time).

Is this what may bring Amara back to help TFW? She still doesn’t appear to care much about humans if her verbal shrug after Chuck smote her masseuse for kicks is any indication. So, I guess worrying about humanity still isn’t her thing. Then again, this version of Amara doesn’t seem to care about anything except hedonism and has totally forgotten about her bond with Dean Winchester. So, it’s hard to tell whether we’ve seen the last of her or she’s just going through an ennui phase.

Speaking of Chuck and Amara, their pettiness makes them too human and not godlike enough in this episode. I’m not talking about a conscious choice to make them petty (Greek gods were petty, too), but that they are portrayed thinking and caring about things that they shouldn’t and wouldn’t care about.

For example, why is Chuck complaining about not getting food when he doesn’t need to eat and could conjure up anything he wants, including the waitstaff? I can sort of see Amara liking massages, but what is the attraction for her in meditation? And why is she so slow to notice her brother’s condition when they are permanently and psychically linked (“Yin and Yang,” as Amara puts it)? Why is she unaware that Chuck opened Hell?

And what does Chuck know? When he touches his wound, there is no indication in the story that he is aware that Sam can feel it, too, or where Sam is, or how the whole ghost army situation is going. Is he just not following his own story, anymore, even as he’s in the middle of it?

This seems like the usual thing the show does at this time of the season. At the end of the previous season, they introduce a Big Bad that turns out to be a little bit too Big and Bad. So, they have to rein in said BB for that character to last (and the Brothers to survive) until the end of the season. So, the show has elected to limit God. That doesn’t mean the way they’re writing this storyline makes much sense.

This is also a reason why the ghosts are such a dud as a mytharc storyline. As I noted last week, they are pretty much the opposite of ethereal and that makes them not-scary. SPN ghosts are noted for being crazy violent (literally), but that also means they are effectively mindless.

Having ghosts plotting and coming up with nefarious plans is a bit like writing zombie as actual characters who can think and pick locks. The whole point of Romeroesque zombies as something different from other revenants like vampires is that they can’t think. Similarly, the Supernatural version of ghosts can’t, either. And yet, here we are, with ghosts plotting to take over the world, and it’s as boring as salt-less oatmeal.

And that doesn’t mean the show can escape those limitations for this type of MOTW so easily, or without unfortunate implications for the story. The writing for Jack the Ripper, for example, is bog-standard awful. Not only did they pick an historical suspect who was American, but they then cast an actor who didn’t look or sound anything like how that candidate did in real life.

Nor does he act like Jack the Ripper in his kill pattern (except that he’s about as thunderously stupid in his Evil Overlord planning as you would expect for the ghost of a maniac killer who escaped capture largely due to police incompetence). In the teaser, he disembowels a woman. But that is the very least of what the real Jack the Ripper did.

He was a sexual sadist who butchered his female victims in highly sexual ways. His last known victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was the youngest and reputedly the prettiest of the women. The killer left her sprawled in a sexualized position, carved to pieces, with no face. None of that vicious vibe appears in the teaser for this episode, let alone later on.

Apparently, portraying a young black woman in a master-slave position with a white man, complete with dog collar, is A-okay for these writers. But portraying an attack by Jack the Ripper with anything approaching historical accuracy is a CW bridge too far. Well, don’t pick Jack the Ripper as your EVOL spokesghost, then.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Back and To the Future” (15.01 – Season Premiere) Live Recap Thread


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It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 52 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 19 after this one for the final (15th) season that starts on October 10. That’s 71 total by next April. I currently have 149 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Really long recap (nearly two minutes) of random (maybe) stuff from previous seasons and one for last season that includes Dean-Michael and Mary’s death for a hot minute. We also get a quick bit of EVOL!Kaia fighting, but not Jody or Donna, or any other Wayward Sister we might care about. But it mostly lingers on the Jacknatural plot. For a painfully prolonged time. It’s all set to Bob Seger’s “The Famous Final Scene.”

Cut to Now as the song continues in the middle of the night Chuck either suddenly created out of a bright, sunny afternoon or time traveled TFW into. The camera pulls back from Jack’s face with its burned-out eye sockets to the fight going on around him. Sam, Dean and Castiel are defending themselves from a horde of zombies. Whenever they stab or smite them, the spirits inside the bodies flame red and flare out in a new special effect that … well … doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Are they being destroyed? Shouldn’t they all be demons by now? Ah, Dabb, you and your LOL!Canon.

Eventually, TFW are able to grab Jack’s body (because, as Game of Thrones demonstrated in season eight, the smartest thing to do in a fight with zombies is to grab a recently dead body and go hide out with some other dead bodies) and retreat to a nearby mausoleum.

Cue title cards of some sort of hurricane bullet wound. Or something.

So, they’re in the crypt, trying to figure out how to get out. Well … the Brothers are trying to figure out how to get out. Castiel is moping over Jack’s dead, eyeless body, ’cause that’s useful.

After circling round and not finding a way out (aside from a window that’s way too close to the zombie-laden Forest Lawn they just escaped, the Brothers return to Jack’s body and mope briefly over it, too.

“He didn’t deserve this,” Dean says, before moving on to figuring out how not to join him. Mmm, yeah, he really did, Dean, but okay. Sam asks Castiel if he can heal Jack (from a Chuck smiting? Don’t think so, Sam).

Dean tries to figure out this new version of zombies while facing the prospect of starving to death (they’d actually die of thirst, first). Sam and Castiel both speculate that the zombies are Hell souls who leaped into any body they could find.

This … quite irritates me. For one thing, a graveyard like that isn’t going to have a whole lot of bodies left because bodies decompose relatively quickly in relation to how quickly your average cemetery in a small town fills up. For another, all souls that go to Hell turn into demons (per Ruby, who was a lying demon, yes, but was never proven wrong on that one) and they do it pretty quickly.

So, the evil ghosts the Brothers have vanquished actually ought to be demons by now, not ordinary ghosts. Or superghosts. Or whatever the hell Dabb is trying to make them out to be now.

But hey. Why should the showrunner pay any attention to his show’s own canon, amirite?

Anyhoo, Dean grumbles that he never trusted Chuck. This is true. Maybe everyone else should have listened to him about that.

Meanwhile, Sam has found an area of the wall near the floor that has the sound of running water in some kind of French drain pipe (in a crypt?). So, they start breaking up the wall and the brick behind it to see if they can crawl out (while Castiel just stands there).

Alas, the zombies have somehow figured out this route first and crawled in because … well, who the hell even knows? What did you have in mind, here, Dabb?

Castiel finally steps in and brains the zombie (which causes the skeletal spirit inside to ghost out), but it appears whatever barrier kept the souls out has been broken. Jack suddenly stands up behind them. Only, it’s not Jack. It’s a demon using his meatsuit.

The demon introduces itself as Belphegor, then checks out their gear to find some sunglasses to cover Jack’s burned-out eyes. At this point, Castiel grabs Belphegor, shoves him against the wall, and demands – at angel-sword-point – that he vacate Jack’s body.

Belphegor’s counter is that he can help them escape the crypt. That’s a pretty good counter. Dean pulls Castiel off, saying they need all the help they can get (and if the demon doesn’t help, they’ll just kill him). Sam, for once, backs Dean up.

Sam starts to introduce himself and Dean, but Belphegor cuts them off. He knows they’re the Winchesters and he knows what that means. He immediately assumes Dean was the one who opened all of Hell and is surprised when Castiel sets him straight that it was actually Chuck (while Dean looks nonplussed and Sam confirms Castiel’s claim with grim look).

Belphegor explains that he’s not a CRD or a BED (in mythology, he’s a Prince of Hell, but the show already killed them off so … not in this story?). He’s just an ordinary demon Joe who likes being in Hell, tormenting souls. He wants to get back to business as usual, which means he’s on the Winchesters’ side, at least for now.

Sam asks if Belphegor can “fix this” (meaning: Put all the zombies back). The demon says he can’t, but that he can get them out of the crypt. Dean asks how. Belphegor gets together some grave dirt and angel blood (from a reluctant Castiel) and then claps his bloodied/dirty hands together. The incessant growling of the zombies outside stops, as if cut off. When TFW go outside, they find bodies everywhere.

Castiel says the ghosts must have all died – I mean, again. Belphegor corrects him on that. He just blasted them out of the bodies. Dean asks, Where are they now?

Cut to two girls (one black and one white – this is very relevant) playing dress-up in the white girl’s bedroom (except that later, we will see pictures on the wall of the black girl, so I guess it’s her house?), while Extreme Music’s “Gimme What I Want” plays.

It’s not actually a bad song, but I get the impression the show is using it here to emphasize the girls immaturity and innocence. Dabb writes them as stereotypical pre-teens (giggling, big smiles and talking in popular catchphrases), but the actresses look quite a bit older. Which just underscores how poorly he writes women.

Anyhoo, we get a few lines about how the white girl’s mom is buying her lots of stuff out of guilt over divorcing her dad/step-dad. As the black girl turns back to the mirror, Bloody Mary (who had previous stuck her hand out of a mirror the white girl turned away from) starts to mimic her. First, she makes the girl’s reflection’s eyes bleed, then the girl’s eyes. But then, as the girl turns around, she pulls the skin off her own face as she screams and that’s not part of the whole Bloody Mary thing, so LOL!Canon strikes again.

Also, yep, the Person of Color dies first and worst. Thanks so much for grinding that old horror-movie cliche in a little more, Dabb.

Upon seeing her friend drop dead, White Girl turns to flee, but sees Bloody Mary blocking her path. She lets out a hearty horror-movie scream.

Cut to the Impala, still in Chuck’s imposed night. Castiel and Belphegor are in the backseat, which is mighty uncomfortable for the angel. Belphegor is saying he looks good with the glasses, but demons whose vessels have burned-out eyes can’t see (per the waitress demon in season four’s premiere, “Lazarus Rising”).

Sam is looking online for any sign of the “ghosts” and can’t find any (wouldn’t people also be confused by day suddenly turning to night?). Belphegor says the “souls” will resurface eventually, as they have to go somewhere. He can contain them, though, in a mile-wide radius near the cemetery (but doesn’t this conversation imply they blasted all over the world – oh, never mind). He just needs to use a spell. When asked how many souls there are in Hell, he says 2-3 billion. Um, really? If there were that many in Hell, then why did Crowley believe in season six that the tens of millions of monster souls in Purgatory would ever help him against Raphael?

Castiel points out that this circle would encompass the nearby town of Harlan, KS, so now TFW has to go back in and get everyone out (assuming they’re not already dead or possessed by ghosts).

They see a car up ahead. It’s deserted, with blood on the windshield and the radio playing “Too Good to Be True” by Lon Rodgers and the Soul Blenders. Dean immediately recognizes this as the MO of a Woman in White. Sam confirms that there is more than one Woman in White type of ghost in the SPNverse when he guesses this might be their Woman in White. At that point, Dean realizes that all the souls they ever vanquished are back out of Hell and roaming the earth.

Cut to a viciously disrupted birthday party (it’s heavily implied that there were child casualties). There are only two survivors – a woman and her daughter. The woman, who is happily quite resourceful, carries her child out to the garage. But a ghost clown chasing them has put the whole house on supernatural lockdown and they can’t get out. The woman calls out to a man outside, walking his dog, but he doesn’t hear her. She and her daughter hide as the ghost (of John Wayne Gacy from “Lebanon” last season) stalks through the garage, looking for them and cackling.

Cut to daytime, with the Brothers arriving in the Impala in town. Sam gets out to convince the sheriff that he has to evacuate the town (some barmy lie about a benzene pipeline outside town that “sprung a leak”). Sam and Dean are wearing FBI jackets.

Meanwhile, Dean tries to detail Castiel out to the job of getting Belphegor his ingredients, but Castiel can’t even angel-up enough to look at Belphegor and gets out of the car. Hey, remember when Dean was reaaaallly upset about Jack murdering his mom and Castiel wanted him to get over it in a hot minute? Yeah.

So, in the car, Belphegor is saying he’s been downstairs since he died and that the last time he was topside, people were very ugly and they “worshiped a giant penis” (the expressions from Jensen Ackles to stay in character – and likely to keep from laughing – are priceless). This is a reference to Belphegor’s real-world mythology as the god Baal-Peor in Ancient Canaanite religion. He was worshiped by the Moabites in the form of a stone penis. Really. It’s all in Belphegor’s pretty-short Wikipedia page, which is probably the only research Dabb did on the subject.

In the show, this version has a wee crush on Dean. Dean mostly shrugs this off and gets out of the demon that there are only two key ingredients to his spell – rock salt and a human heart. So, basically Ruby’s spell from season three’s “Jus in Bello,” but missing the “kills all demons” part.

Meanwhile, Sam and Castiel have convinced the sheriff to evacuate the town and they are going into houses to get people out. Castiel happens to enter the one with the two girls (Bloody Mary is still there in the mirrors and looking smug). Sam goes into the one where the woman is still hiding with her daughter in the garage from Gacy Clown.

Rather than let her mom get her down from the high shelf they were hiding behind, Sam stupidly puts down his saltgun and gets her down himself. Then he starts reassuring her while still not picking up the gun. This, unsurprisingly, results in GC appearing behind him and slashing him.

Fortunately, Castiel shows up and blasts the ghost with rock salt. Then he heals Sam of the ghost’s slash wound. They then have a conversation about Sam’s ricochet wound from shooting Chuck, right in front of the mom and daughter, while the clown ghost is still in the vicinity. As you do.

Castiel tries to heal the bullet wound, but instead gets a vision of Sam apparently possessed by Lucifer in the Bunker while it’s on lockdown and possibly a shot of Dean collapsing as if dead, while we hear him say, “Sammy, please.”

Castiel then says there’s an “energy” in the wound that he has never, ever, pinky-swear felt before. I roll my eyes, because did we really need a final round of Sam Done Come Back Wrong? Really, Show? That’s the best you can do with this character in his final season?

Meanwhile, Dean is getting off the phone with Rowena (“Get your exquisite ass over here” he tells her after being told off for saying only “Get your ass over here”) and handing Belphegor his salt. Belphegor then admits that he’s a major fan (and he does use that word) of the torturer Dean was in Hell, that what Dean did there was “art.” He just didn’t want to say that in front of the rest of TFW.

Whoo, does that make Dean uncomfortable. But when Dean asks Belphegor what it was like when Hell burst open, he is shocked to hear that every door opened up and confirms that this included the Cage. Michael hadn’t left the Cage when Belphegor was cast out (up?), but if he were to do that, well ….

Meanwhile, the sheriff is finishing up clearing the town out and gets killed in a parking lot right after talking to Sam, by the Woman in White (not played by Sarah Shahi this time). Conveniently (and uncharacteristically), she leaves the heart, which means Belphegor can now use it for his spell without too much guilt for TFW. The Woman in White shows up and hits Dean after saying “I remember you. You took me home.” Nooooo, Dabb, honey. That was Sam. She also slashes Belphegor because that’s now a thing ghosts can do to demons, I guess.

Sam and Castiel are leaving the house as GC watches them from the garage. The little girl decides to wander over to a pond and stare into it until Bloody Mary shows up because … plot reasons. Mom gets grabbed as she tries to get her daughter away. Meanwhile, Sam is up against GC and Castiel against Lizzie Borden for some random reason. There’s also some other random tall dude. Actually, Castiel does most of the vanquishing and Sam accidentally shoots him with rock salt at one point (to Castiel’s annoyance). But Sam does get to shoot Bloody Mary, and save Mom and her stupid daughter. So, there’s that.

This is interspersed with Belphegor doing the spell in Latin (a bit mangled in pronunciation): “Animae infernorum, spiritus abyssi surrecti defigo, vos intra confinia, vinciamini,” which basically means, “Spirits of Hell, resurrected spirits of the abyss, I enchant/strike [you] dumb; within this boundary, I confine you.”

A large, glowing red line spreads out around the town. Sam and Castiel see it and Sam realizes it’s the spell. He and Castiel, along with the mom and daughter, start running. Funnily enough, instead of doing their usual thing of teleporting, the spirits … run after them. In broad daylight. Really.

So, the humans make it through the boundary (after Sam first tries to hold off the ghosts with an empty saltgun). GC howls in rage and Sam tells to clown to “shut up.”

Afterward, as they get dropped off in a nearby town, Mom and Daughter thank TFW, who tell them it might be best if they don’t tell anybody about all this. I concur.

Dean asks Castiel if he’s okay. Castiel says yes, but before he can go into any detail (warming up more than he has recently toward Dean), Dean says that’s good and coldly turns his back on him. Just in case we weren’t sure what this was supposed to mean, Belphegor casually rimshots it as an intentional snub. Castiel rebuffs Belphegor’s offer to cry on his shoulder.

At the very end, Sam says they’re on a deadline. What happens when the real FBI shows up? Dean gets Sam to show him his wound and cleans it (distracting him with a knock-knock joke, just as when they were kids). Because surely, after an angel couldn’t do anything, a little alcohol will do the trick. He notes there’s no exit wound. Well, yeah, but it wasn’t a gun that, strictly speaking, fired bullets, anyway.

Sam brings up Chuck saying it was “the end” in last season’s finale. Dean says they were just “rats in a maze” all along, with no meaningful choice. Sam says they saved people, but Dean asks what is the point, when Chuck will just throw another apocalypse at them? Sam, though, thinks that Chuck is gone (um … because why, now?), that Chuck has given up on this story and moved on to another one. So, if they can beat this apocalypse, maybe it will be the last one.

As they turn back to the trunk (in a mirror of the end of the Pilot), Dean says, “Well, you know what that means.”

Sam: We got work to do.

As Sam reaches up to close the trunk, we get an actual flashback to his doing it in the Pilot.

Credits.

The show came back slightly higher in demo (0.4/2) than the season 14 finale (0.3/2) and slightly lower (1.23 million vs. 1.30 million) in audience. What that probably means is that it skewed a bit younger this week than in last season’s finale. This put it in fourth place for the week on the network (including against brand-new show Batwoman). I haven’t seen DVR numbers yet for the show.

For comparison, Supernatural‘s lead-out Legacies came back with an unimpressive 0.3/3 and 0.80 million, which put Legacies third-from-last for the week, only ahead of Friday shows Charmed and Dynasty. Sure, CW. Tell us again how Legacies and Charmed were such better ideas than that Wayward Sisters spin-off.

The preview for next week is up.

Review: Well. That happened.

For those of you hoping the showrunners would clean up their act this final season, it was a nice thought. Let’s put it that way.

This episode had some nice ideas and clip-clopped along at enough of a rate that it might even have been scary in an old-school, fairly simplistic-but-eerie way, if both the writer and director hadn’t been phoning it all in. Not a good sign of things to come when both showrunners are so mentally checked out in the very first episode of their last season.

It was a typical Dabb script – shallow, insipid and chaotic, yet painfully linear, loaded with walking cliches in place of characters, random plot holes, poor or nonexistent foreshadowing, and many unnecessary errors in canon.

Singer’s direction was obvious and plodding, taking the cheapest, easiest and least imaginative approach to the script. I got some amusement out of the traditional Belphegor being an example of laziness and sloth in Reformation era demonology. What a perfect metaphor for the current showrunners and their bad attitude. It’s possible this was Dabb’s sly dig at critical fans, but with everything else in the episode being banged home with verbal rimshots, I doubt he had anything so subtle in mind.

A major example in the episode itself is the central MOTW – the ghosts. There’s a moment at the climax that highlights the errors in a glaring way. That’s when Sam and Castiel, and their two civilian charges are running from the ghosts who are … running after them. Say, what?

Now, sure, in the beginning of the episode, the ghosts are lumbering after TFW, but that’s because they are inside dead meatsuits. Why they are inside dead meatsuits isn’t entirely clear. Is that something Chuck just randomly made up?

Okay, fine, but how is that satisfying storytelling? Just because a monster mash-up sounds cool on paper, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna work out onscreen (it sure didn’t here). And if it’s not satisfying storytelling, why would Chuck do it in the first place? Just because he’s God, that doesn’t mean his behavior has no limits or pattern. He likes good stories. Even if he is (as I continue to suspect) actually the Empty Entity, he’s still gotta act in character and doing so means “writing” a good puppet show.

The thing that Dabb forgets, over and over, in this episode is that a big part of what made classic ghosts like Bloody Mary and the Woman in White so frightening was how the limits of their urban legend backstories actually made them more dangerous, not less. It made their behavior unsettling and unpredictable, even once you figured out their pattern.

When they would hit such a limit in their parameters, they’d bounce off in some random direction and come at you sideways, or from behind. Sure, the pattern would be obvious after their attack, but by then, someone would usually be dead. Their backstories gave them a mystery, a mystique, that made them truly frightening. Take away their traditional limits and they become generic monsters, and much, much less scary.

The thing that Singer forgets is that ghosts are scary because they operate in the dark, in shadows (where you can’t really see them or what they’re doing), and because they no longer move or act like human beings. They flicker and teleport. They appear and disappear at random. They twist and distort. They flow like liquid, blow like gas. They appear in multiple forms. They are lethally ethereal.

What they are not is a group of live human actors in dress-up, running after Our Heroes across an open street, in broad daylight, on a bright and sunny day. If you’re gonna go with that setting, do some friggin’ shadow people flickering along the house walls and doors, instead. That would be scary.

At the climactic point in the episode, the ghosts have been kicked out of their bodies and are, again, just ghosts. There is simply no reason for ghosts to run. In point of fact, we never see them run in other episodes (except for the justly forgotten “Of Grave Importance,” where they even forget they can pass through walls and floors and ceilings). There is nothing scary about ghosts running like living people.

Speaking of which, why are they still just ghosts? They should long since have been demonized by now. Yet, we only meet one demon – Belphegor. And the way Belphegor talks about being in Hell, it appears the show has, once again, forgotten all about the canon established in season-freakin’-four that Hell time moves much faster than earth time – in the same scene where Belphegor is referencing Dean’s 40 years in Hell, no less.

Or, that there shouldn’t be that many souls left in Hell, demonized or not, after Amara’s eating rampage. Or, if there were lots more than that before she chowed down on them, why was Crowley so hot to get a mere 20-30 million monster souls from Purgatory in season six?

One could argue that some of this retconning is just reinterpreting canon, rather than changing it up. And I’d be fine with that if the replacement canon were better, or at least took the story in intriguing new directions, but it’s not and it doesn’t. It’s just lazy.

There is no reason, for example, for the Woman in White to claim that Dean took her home. That’s as dumb as the Nepotism Duo claiming that Lucifer was the oldest archangel. The Pilot’s climax makes it obvious this was Sam’s plan (to the point that Dean complains afterward about Sam driving the car into the house). Sam even says what he’s about to do to Constance (the Pilot’s Woman in White) right before he does it. And Dean is treated by both of them as little more than an afterthought, even though he “shot Casper in the face, you freak,” as Sam so memorably puts it.

Further, while I can see a fandemon like Belphegor believing that Dean was behind opening the gates of Hell, it makes no sense from a story point of view. Aside from Dean, only a few angels and demons even know that Dean was the First Seal. That leaves Sam and Castiel duking it out for the top spot of Number One Public Champ in Starting Apocalypses.

I find it curious that these two “accomplishments” (one minor, one highly negative) are incorrectly attributed to Dean, while Sam gets the limpest, lamest version of Speshul Sauce Sammy subplot yet. He’s got VISIONS FROM GOD, Y’ALL. Though it would be more accurate to say that Castiel’s attempt to heal his wound meant the wound sparked visions in Castiel because Sam acts completely unaware of them when interacting with Dean later on. But the upshot is that once again, we have something SPECIAL about Sam that really has nothing to do with Sam and doesn’t grow his personality in any significant way.

Not helping is the constant handholding and training wheels that the episode gives Sam. Sam is a grown-ass adult and experienced Hunter of no small renown, yet he’s presented here as barely able to carry a saltgun by the correct end. Castiel has to rescue him almost incessantly from his own stupidity and the big, mean ghosts Sam has been fighting his entire life. I mean, I get that clowns scare him, but come on. He acts dumb even before he tangles with Gacy Clown.

Granted, everyone in that climactic ghost chase scene (especially that little girl) is hit by so many plot stupid anvils that it’s a wonder they won’t have concussions for the rest of the season. The little girl was so dumb, I kept expecting her to be possessed by a ghost. Hell, somebody should have been possessed by a ghost in all the shenanigans.

Castiel, I wanted to smack with a rotten mackerel for much of the episode. He’s been acting pissy toward Dean for a while, for various plot reasons (for a start, he was mad at Dean last season for saying yes to Michael, even though Castiel had said yes to Lucifer under not-dissimilar conditions). His latest thing was being upset that Dean wasn’t properly “mourning” Jack, but as Dean put it in the episode, Jack was dead and they had an apocalypse to survive.

Castiel seems to have had a change of heart after seeing the vision of Sam apparently murdering Dean. I think. Unlike everything else in the episode, including Dean’s stinging rejection of Castiel’s proffered olive branch (complete with verbal rimshot from Belphegor, standing nearby), it wasn’t made REALLY OBVIOUS. Yet, Castiel did act distinctly warmer toward Dean in the episode’s coda and it did follow directly on his vision of Dean’s death at Sam’s hands in some probably-near future.

[Update: According to an interview today (10/17) with Andrew Dabb (though keep in mind that interviews are never canon and the writers frequently lie or fudge what actually appears on the show, all the time), Sam was the one who had the vision, not Castiel, and Castiel didn’t actually see anything. I don’t know what to tell y’all about that, since Sam didn’t react to the vision (aside from looking in pain) and Castiel did. If Dabb and Singer really did intend to convey that it was Sam’s vision and not Castiel’s, then they did a piss-poor job of it.]

Alas, Dean wasn’t feeling the reconciliation. Well, that might have something to do with Castiel’s little meltdown in the middle of the episode. Castiel wasn’t happy at all with Dean’s being willing to work with a demon inside Jack’s meatsuit and was pretty nasty about it. Yet, he was all about Dean insta-forgiving Jack for murdering Mary and just moving on from his own mother’s (second) death. Keep in mind that only occurred days ago in the story’s timeline.

From Dean’s POV, that’s going to look an awful lot like Castiel feeling “bad” about Mary, but not really. In wallowing in his own grief and anger over Jack’s death, Castiel made it abundantly clear that his love and grief over Mary was all pretty academic, and that he wasn’t willing to respect Dean’s grief in the way he expected Dean to respect his own (in the middle of an all-hands-on-deck emergency, no less). And that’s gonna make Dean pretty salty.

Well, I left Belphegor for last. I’m not really sure what to think of him. I liked him okay initially, though I found Alex Calvert’s performance a little rough. He did improve a bit on rewatch, though, and it’s common for fan favorites to have rocky starts in their first episode.

I currently have two problems with him. One is that his powers and skills were a little bit too convenient for the needs of TFW and the story. That Sued him up a bit, even allowing for the probability that he is playing TFW (Dean even acknowledged this likelihood while accepting his help). The other is that I don’t see much reason to get used to him as a character, since I doubt he’ll last long. The show seems obsessed with bring Jack Sue back, with all that entails, so that makes Belphegor just a placeholder character who keeps Alex Calvert onscreen and Calvert fans happy for now. Ah, well.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #15: Haunted Broughton: Tales from the Graveyard Shift

Check out the rest of the month’s reviews here, and last year’s reviews here. If you enjoyed this review and want to help out with my folklore research, head on over to my Patreon page and join up, make a one-time donation on this site or directly through Paypal, or send me a coffee.

Langley, Margaret M. Haunted Broughton: Tales from the Graveyard Shift. October 2, 2009.

This is my other favorite of the month so far. It’s a veritable self-published diamond in the rough, the first in a trilogy of ghost story collections about Broughton Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Morganton, NC (in the Mountain region). Despite having an editor named along with the author on the book cover, I’m afraid that this book suffers from a cornucopia of copy editing errors and weird formatting. Nonetheless, I recommend wading through them because the content is worth the effort.

So, why is that? For a start, there’s the setting. Psychiatric hospitals, especially the earlier ones built in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, are perennial chill-givers, particularly this time of year. They have propped up many a creaky B-movie.

The idea of being trapped as a patient or working in such asylums in their heyday is unsettling enough, but if they were haunted, too? Yikes. American Horror Story did an entire season based just on that premise and one of Supernatural‘s most famous (and famously scary) episodes is season one’s “Asylum.”

But most of these tales are set in that fuzzy time of Back in the Day. Even non-supernatural accounts about the real-life hospitals are told from a distance of decades. Most of them were closed down in the 1960s and 1970s, with some making it into the 90s.

So, it’s rare (even unique, as I can’t think of any comparable such collection) to find a book of ghost stories that is not only about a psych hospital still in operation, but one that has been collated and told by one of its current staff (and boy, do we EMS folks have some doozies to tell). Forget moldy old urban legends at fifth or sixth-hand. This is living oral history being recorded as it occurs.

Langley herself recognizes this. In the introduction, she says, “These stories are essentially time capsules, if you will; memories of conditions and happenings around Broughton Hospital that will be lost forever if someone doesn’t record them. Sadly, many people have not told their story to me, for fear of being thought ‘crazy.’ Imagine, working in a mental hospital and telling people you saw a ghost? So, for that reason, all submitters will remain anonymous.”

This is not necessarily a problem in terms of folkloric reliability, since Langley herself is one of the people who have experienced paranormal phenomena. So, even though she is telling other people’s stories as well as hers, it’s still a first-hand account. Also, by keeping anonymity for everyone (including possible identities of even ghosts of patients), she doesn’t violate HIPAA rules. In general, she demonstrates a lot of compassion for those patients, both living and dead.

The first part, about the history of the hospital, is on the tedious side. Bear with it. As with the intro for Haunted Theaters of the Carolinas, which I reviewed earlier this month, it’s necessary to the understanding the sometimes complicated background and layout of the hospital. You’ll get more out of the stories if you understand their setting.

Annnd then we get into the creepy stuff. There is, for example a haunted laundry that no one on the staff likes going into at night. Ditto a haunted recreation hall in the same building (fittingly called Ward 13) that is just fine and dandy in the daytime, cheery and bright, but a whole other story at 3am.

See, Ward 13 is the second-oldest building still in existence on campus. Built in 1887, it may have been used in experiments on patients, but it seems no one actually knows why it’s haunted, just that it is. People have reported hearing screams when they get sodas out of the vending machine, whistling, ghostly conversations, and being touched in the elevator. A cat who lives on the grounds sometimes disappears for hours, only to appear out of the deserted Ward 13 elevator or show up with chilly fur.

Ward 13 is also a building where the author reports having seen shadows of people passing in the hallway when it was deserted. In the Bates Building, she heard the disembodied voice of a colleague (recently murdered by her husband) call her name. When Langley told her supervisor, the supervisor admitted that on nights when she was doing paperwork in her office in the Bates Building, she would see reflections on her door of people passing in the hallway, but no one was there. For some reason, that’s the story that comes back to me when I’m in bed at night.

Langley also heard a story from the same building about a crying baby and a haunted doll. In a nearby building can sometimes be heard piano music.

As if that’s not bad enough, there’s a haunted tunnel through which dead patients were once carried (much like the famous Waverly Asylum) and a nearby graveyard that’s seriously haunted. This book is full of stories and there are two more books (which I still intend to read). That’s a grand total of some 400 pages in all.

An interesting footnote is that one Amazon reviewer named “littlejo” (Susan Amond Todd from White Lake, NC in her profile) gave the book two stars on February 4, 2011. She claimed to have worked at the hospital for 15 years and that her mother worked there for 37 years. She insisted that while some hauntings had occurred, the author had greatly exaggerated them and that the reviewer’s mother disagreed about some of the stories.

On the other hand, a reviewer from Alabama named Joe L. Carpenter gave it four stars on July 16, 2015. He claimed in a review on the second book that his father and neighbors experienced many of the same stories as Langley tells, while working at the hospital, themselves. I’m not sure what the background is on all that, especially considering the easy anonymity of internet criticism, but it’s intriguing that even the reviews add to the folkloric story.

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The Official Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell (12.15) Recap Discussion Thread


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

Recap of last week and then of Hell Hounds. Dammit, Dean needs to kill one, already. He needs a little revenge.

Also, a recap of Nickifer’s return and Kelly baby mama because…don’t care. Also, apparently, the waitress was an angel, which I don’t think we saw in the actual episode.

And we’re in Now in Sheridan County, Nebraska. A young woman at a campsite is chopping wood while her boyfriend slacks off with social media. Doomed Teaser Couple Alert!

They cuddle for a bit and talk about how she’s going away to vet school. They’re going to try the long-distance thing. You know…the thing that never seems to work. Unless, maybe, when you’re in the military.

He goes for a walk while talking himself into asking her to marry him. She’s back at the campsite and finds the ring he bought her. She looks…well…not thrilled.

Just as well, since he’s being stalked. And eaten. By something with Hell Hound vision. Right in front of her. It knocks her down and she bops it with a stick. It squeals and runs away.

Cue title cards.

Total Walking Dead joke-the Brothers return with Dean wielding Lucille and covered in Ghoul, Wraith and Siren gore.

Dean comments that Sam knew how much underwear Dean packed and that he’s been wearing the same pair for…a while.

Sam gets call for another hunt. Supposedly, he’s got an algorhythm that hunts up weird stuff. Dean gives him a blank look, even though Dean already knows how to work computers very well. And hack.

Dean goes to shower using Sam’s shampoo.

The Brothers go to investigate Doomed Teaser Guy while talking about a haunting Mary just wrapped up and that Castiel is investigating a case where something’s killing angels (shocker, says Dean). Cut to Castiel interviewing a woman in a diner with an upside-down FBI badge.

The owner intercepts him. He looks a lot like Chuck. He asks Castiel to follow him. The guy locks them both into his office, which has a fan like Bobby’s panic room. The guy mentions a woman named “Sarah.” He says she was killed by aliens–reptilian aliens. Sent by the Queen of England. He has video proof. He’s “woke.”

It’s CCTV footage of Kelly being pushed down an alleyway by a guy (angel) in a suit. Sarah shows up with Yellow Eyes (she’s the one being possessed by Dagon) and kills the angel.

Meanwhile, the Brothers investigate the site and immediately suss out the MOTW was a Hell Hound.

They visit the DTG’s would-be fiancee, Gwen, who is having nightmares. Cue the sneak peek in which Dean points out that lying to her probably won’t make her feel any better than telling the truth.

They’re being watched and followed by the Hell Hound. Remember when Dean could sense/see them?

As Sam tries to explain, Dean supplies that it was a bear and Sam rolls with that. Gwen tells them to get out, Dean snarking to Sam that lying didn’t do it.

The Hell Hound stays inside with her.

So, after the commercial break, the Hell Hound attacks Gwen and chases her around the house. The Brothers bust in and Dean shoots the Hound twice. Even though he couldn’t see it before. [eyeroll]

Over to Crowley’s upstairs pad, Crowley is mocking Lucifer and claiming to be “ten steps ahead” of him. They trade pointless barbs. C’mon, we already know Lucie’s gonna bust out.

A demon bangs at the door. Crowley muzzles Lucifer and then comes out to speak with the demon. Two demons.

They’re asking him to deal with hundreds of overdue Crossroads deals.

Back at Gwen’s, the Brothers level with her. Gwen finally figures out they aren’t FBI. And looks skeptical when they tell her. She asks them why they didn’t tell her the truth in the first place, Dean points at Sam.

Sam delicately brings up the topic of how you get a Hell Hound after you–you sell your soul. Gwen says she never made a deal and her boyfriend never would.

Sam suggests they call Crowley, who is being bored to tears by demon legal briefs. Dean calls and Crowley answers because it’s Dean. Crowley is still pissed about Gavin. Dean says it was Gavin’s call and says they have a “situation.” Crowley is about to hang up when Dean adds, “Hell Hounds.” Crowley forces his demons to admit that the top Hell Hound escaped. Crowley visits the Brothers and tells them that the Hound (named “Ramsey” for some random reason) is Lucifer’s pet, and that all Hell Hounds were previously created by God as pets and then subverted by Lucifer.

They figure out the Hound is coming after Gwen because she hit it. Except that she only hit it because it came after her–oh, never mind. It’s all very stupid.

Meanwhile, the totally predictable happens and Crowley’s minions find Lucifer.

The demons are trying to negotiate with Lucifer, who just wants to be loose and has, of course, no intention of honoring any deal.

They finally let him loose and he kills the demon who was negotiating the most, but dithers slightly over killing the other one–before doing so.

Meanwhile, Castiel is having a chat in a diner with another angel, who is there to kill Kelly and wants Castiel’s help. He’s willing to negotiate Castiel’s return and says that Joshua is the one currently in charge. And, as usual, he’s contemptuous of Castiel hanging out with the Winchesters. Usual temptation crap storyline for Castiel.

In the woods, the Brothers fill Gwen in on how you can see Hell Hounds with special glasses. Bring on the nerd specs!

Loooots of promos later, we get back to the woods. Crowley is complimenting Dean on his hotness in eyeglasses. Crowley repeats everything Dean says, calling him “predictable.” Dean tells him he’s “gone soft.”

Crowley says who knew a few years ago that Dean would have been working with the King of Hell? Apparently, Perez forgot all about Dean working *for* the King of Hell in season six.

Dean and Crowley can’t find Ramsey, while Sam is driving Gwen around. Gee, I wonder where the Hound is?

Gwen is feeling bad about not loving her boyfriend as much as he loved her and lying about it.

Oh, look, Ramsey showed up. The Hound smashes up the car, but can’t get in. Show, if you have Sam kill *another* Hell Hound, I swear….

So, yup, Sam kills the Hell Hound. In the most underwhelming way possible.

Perez just plain needs to go.

Crowley says his goodbyes at the car and returns to get backhanded by Lucifer. Lucifer shines bright and opens his wings.

And then Crowley gets up and kicks his ass. Turns out Crowley warded Nick himself and completely controls him.

Crowley swears to find and rip apart Lucifer’s “spawn” in front of him.

Back at the Bunker, Dean talks to Castiel. Hey, remember when Castiel said the Winchesters were his family? Yeah, about that…he’s off to Heaven again and didn’t tell Dean.

Oh, and Sam gets a call from Mitch and has to ‘fess up. Dean is not thrilled, but Perez forces an “I’m not happy about it, but okay” speech.

The last thing is Sam getting another call from Dean, because now Sam is apparently Mitch’s bitch.

Perez *really* needs to go.


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High School Politics and a Woman’s Ambition: Female Power in “Election” (1999)


By Paula R. Stiles


Election (1999). Director: Alexander Payne. Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Broderick, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell.

[Spoilers ahoy]


Election is a black comedy about a young woman (Witherspoon), Tracy Flick, who is running for school president for her senior year of high school. She is opposed by her math teacher (Broderick), Jim McAllister, who fears she will turn into some kind of female Hitler, or at least a Madame Defarge, so cold and manipulative and ambitious is she. I’d been avoiding it for a while, since I’m not really into teenage femmes fatales who ruthlessly take down hapless older men (and that’s precisely what the poster and tagline promise), but I figured, Well, what the hell, and gave it a try.

It’s not quite what I’d expected. I’m not too sure that’s a good thing.

You see, Jim was friends with another teacher, Dave Novotny, whom Tracy seduced to get ahead and then reported to the Principal when she was done with him, getting him fired via a note her ball-busting mother found. Since Tracy is running for Class President unopposed, Jim decides she needs a run for her money and persuades another student, affable Paul, to run against her. In the process, Paul’s closeted lesbian sister Tammy also decides to run and it becomes a three-way in which Tracy might conceivably lose. She doesn’t. In fact, she triumphs over Jim, and gets him fired and disgraced. He also ends up divorced and leaves for New York, where he sees her years later, getting into a car with a wealthy politician. He engages in one final act of defiance by throwing his soda at her car.

And that’s the way the film presents things (almost entirely from Jim’s POV, save for a few Tracy and Tammy and Paul voiceovers that could easily be the way Jim imagines they think), except that there are a lot of details that completely change things round from the above summary.

See, first of all, the reason why Jim hates Tracy is rather disturbing. Tracy was 16 when she had her affair with Dave, a guy played by an actor who was 48 at the time the film came out. Also, Dave was married with a new baby. So, Dave’s “indiscretion” was hardly without collateral damage and the idea of a 40-something married guy getting it on with a 16-year-old would be very off even without the statutory rape aspect and the fact that he’s her teacher.

Second, the way the “affair” is portrayed makes it look like a clear-cut case of statutory rape, which, in light of Tracy’s age, it is anyway. Tracy doesn’t seduce Dave. It’s the other way round. Granted, this film came out in 1999, but grooming by pedophiles (albeit Dave is technically an ephebophile) was known by then, largely thanks to the then-growing sex abuse scandals surrounding the Catholic Church, and he definitely is grooming her in those seduction scenes.

We get a voiceover from her in which she insists she’s not looking for a father figure and that what she likes about the affair is their “talks,” juxtaposed with Dave regaling a disgusted Jim with pornographic details about the affair that clearly show he’s thinking with Little Dave not Big Dave. We even get a scene where Dave slowly pulls Tracy through a door in a hallway. Her face is childlike and passive. Somebody’s in charge and it’s not her.

When she finally tires of it and ditches him, Dave goes full-on stalker and starts bombarding her with notes, one of which her mother finds and reports to the Principal, who fires a weeping Dave on the spot. Dave is spared prison, though, and gets to leave town to embark on his career as a box store employee without a criminal record.

Third, Jim is angry about Dave’s getting fired, but pretends he’s not. He decides Tracy is at fault because Dave was just chasing his youth or some such midlife crisis nonsense, but tells himself he’s going after her because she’s genuinely dangerous and must be stopped now and anyway, it’s not democratic for her to run alone. He talks about worrying about Dave, but never bothers to contact him. It’s his duty to report Dave’s behavior, but he never does (and is never called out for his inaction, either, even though he’s a mandated reporter of the abuse). He even has an affair with Dave’s wife, which is what actually blows up his marriage.

Oh, and he also likes to watch porn involving teenage girls.

And how does he blow up his career? Well, when the student in charge of counting the votes tells him that Tracy has won by one vote (despite Jim’s active interference all the way down the line), Jim makes sure to dump a couple of them in the trash so that she loses instead. Only, he’s busted because he’s managed to act like a jerk to the janitor, who rats him out to the Principal.

So, Jim, who is the narrator in the film, turns out not to be the protagonist but the antagonist. Sort of. And that right there is the problem with the film, because not only is this second narrative entirely subtextual, but the first narrative is presented as entirely valid, with Jim pathetic and sad-sack, and Tracy cold and vengeful. It doesn’t help that this is a black comedy, in which, if the Hero loses, it’s to be expected. So, when Jim loses, that just emphasizes that we are really supposed to sympathize with him. Never mind that he is a rancid, bitter man who perceives his students as pawns at best and enemies at worst. The best you can say about him is that he’s Ferris Bueller all grown up.

This isn’t the first film ever in which we are supposed to sympathize with a repellent male predator or dictator when he meets a young woman who is more than a match for him. Witherspoon plays Tracy, not as a seductive Lolita, but as a painfully awkward, earnest kid from the wrong side of the tracks who is just trying to work and think her way out of poverty. One might almost see her as having Asperger’s.

But the film treats her unsympathetically as cold and lacking in compassion. We are invited to mock her and see her least fault as something awful (which, in light of this recent expose about the creepy misogyny behind the scenes during the making of the film, is probably not unintentional). The film seems afraid of Tracy’s power and, especially, her anger.

She is also contrasted with the affable, totally unambitious, and profoundly stupid Paul, and not in a good way. Paul is a golden boy and a One Percenter. Until recently, he’d been a star athlete, but an injury blew his chances of a college sports career. His father is a rich contractor, making him town royalty, so of course he’s pleasant to everyone. He’s started out very well in life. Paul may be a “nice guy” on the surface, but he trails privilege behind him like a wedding gown train through mud. He’s totally oblivious, for example, to the reasons why Jim wants him to run, or why his sister’s opportunistic lover, Lisa, quickly switches to him. As long as she’s giving him blow jobs, it’s all good.

Paul would have made a horrible leader, but the film passes over that very lightly.

Tammy isn’t much better. She’s a lesbian, but insists she’s not. She sucks off her parents’ money every bit as much as her brother, only enters the election to spite him when her ex gets with him (Jim allows it, even though Tammy is technically too young to run for the office), and turns a bit stalkery on them both. Tammy’s lies eventually do let Tracy off the hook, but in no way is Tammy lying for Tracy. It’s all about her own ends.

Probably the character who gets the shortest shrift is Lisa. When the best thing you can say about a character is that she’s a thoughtless slut, that’s problematical. Yet, even though we see her do nothing but use her sexuality to get ahead (aside from a brief scene where she goes a bit Lady Macbeth on Paul’s “behalf”), the film implies that even she is a better person than Tracy. What the hell?

In case you hadn’t noticed before, the women in the story are treated much more harshly than the men, even though the men are just as bad, or worse. So much for equality.