- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.01: Meet the New Boss
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.02: Hello, Cruel World
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.03: The Girl Next Door
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.04: Defending Your Life
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.05: Shut Up, Dr. Phil
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.06: Slash Fiction
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.07: The Mentalists
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.08: Season 7, Time for a Wedding!
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.09: How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.10: Death’s Door
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.11: Adventures in Babysitting
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.12: Time After Time
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.13: The Slice Girls
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.14: Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.15: Repo Man
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.16: Out with the Old
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.17: The Born-Again Identity
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.18: Party On, Garth
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.19: Of Grave Importance
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.20: The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.21: Reading Is Fundamental
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.22: There Will Be Blood
- Recap and Review: Supernatural 7.23: Survival of the Fittest (Season Finale)
By Paula R. Stiles
[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]
Tagline: The brothers put together the final ingredients for their magic weapon and go after Dick. And showrunner Sera Gamble bids us adieu.
Recap: Two-minute-long recap of the season to “Carry On, Wayward Son”. As happy as I am to get the traditional song, the recap makes it obvious how boring this season (and season mytharc) has been, especially when the more interesting episodes get only a flash each because of how little they were involved with the All Important Leviathan Mytharc, which apparently wasn’t important enough to be on for more than fractions of the season.
Cut to a really boring conversation between Crowley and Dick, with Dick having Crowley in a big devil’s trap (which somehow includes things like a comfy chair). Crowley starts off by snarking about Dick’s insults to him in their previous meeting. When Dick shrugs this off as a simple misunderstanding, Crowley calls him on it and says that Dick must have caught Kevin and now knows about the brothers’ plan. He then butters Dick up about how supersmart he is (since Dick really isn’t, so the writers have to overemphasise his nonexistent awesomeness). Dick responds by assuming that Crowley has a vial of his own blood somewhere to have sent to the brothers, should Dick whack him. I actually buy that Crowley would do that. I just don’t quite see why he hasn’t given it to them, already.
After some negotiating over the Leviathans getting the U.S. and the demons getting Canada (because, apparently, the rest of the world no longer exists as far as the writers are concerned), they make an elaborate deal, on tens of feet of parchment in Latin (The two sections we see refer to the deal over Canada and over not giving Sam and Dean Crowley’s blood, respectively, and I bet that’s all that and the two codicils we also see are really all that’s on that long roll. Not sure what the reference to “Moses” is all about, since that sentence is partially obscured. The codicils appear to include added clauses limiting or prohibiting teleportation and electronic communication). In it, Crowley agrees that he will give the brothers a vial of blood from some other demon instead of his own. That way, their weapon won’t work. This longish scene will quickly become pointless when Crowley turns around and gives the brothers exactly what they want.
Cue title cards.
Cut to the brothers on a dark road at night, Dean driving, Sam on shotgun. Sam is looking at a map. He tells Dean that wherever they’re going is off an exit in three miles. Dean grumbles that what they’re about to do is “a bad idea”. When Sam points out that it’s the only idea that they have, Dean insists he only meant it as a joke when he first said it (so it was Dean’s idea). Sam suggests that they call Castiel “again”, but when Dean says that the last time he tried, Castiel arrived on top of his car, “naked, covered in bees,” Sam ruefully that it’s probably not a good idea, after all. I’d have liked to see that scene, but sadly, we don’t. Instead, we get a lame infodump as the brothers turn on the radio and discover a show talking about Dick Roman being at Sucrocorp headquarters. Well, gosh, that’s sure convenient.
The “bad idea” turns out to be breaking into a convent mausoleum of Hispanic nuns and smashing through a nun’s crypt to get at her femurs, complete with Dean tastelessly saying, “Okay, let’s bone this nun.” I don’t know what this show has against nuns, but I wish they’d stop. It was okay in “Lucifer Rising”, but it’s turned into a creepy trope. Also not cool is that Dean talks about wanting to be “more righteous” like the boring, quiet nun they pick. The writers have apparently forgotten that 1. Dean is the only Righteous Man this show has had so far and 2. Dean has Phoenix ash in his blood, which quite handily killed Eve, Mother of Monsters and apparent Leviathan. Way to ignore your own show canon.
Meanwhile, Bobby (still inside that poor maid) is on a dark street, watching a TV through a store window. Dick Roman is being interviewed on the program. There sure are a whole lot of ordinary people on this show yakking about Dick Roman acquiring Sucrocorp. For a Big Bad who’s trying to stay under the radar, he sure sucks at it. YED, Lilith, Lucifer, and Eve all managed to do a lot more without ever being seen or mentioned in public by name. Bobby/Maid buys something long and pointy. When he/she tries to get into a pickup truck, Bobby accidentally separates from his ride when grabbing an iron bar in the back (but the car is no trouble. Right). The suddenly freed maid begs Bobby to let her go, but he sees Dick on the front page of a newspaper he had the maid buy and possesses her again when she tries to run. ‘Cause that doesn’t make him look like a rapist or a monster, or anything.
The brothers get back to Rufus’ shack and summon Crowley, but Crowley doesn’t show up. When Dean wonders if Crowley is just refusing to come, Sam points out that the summons compels him to come (Yes, show. Why do you keep ignoring that whenever it suits you?). Instead, Meg knocks on the door, complaining that Castiel showed up at her hiding place “halfway across the world” and brought her back here (By the way, writers, it’s “lying low” not “laying low.”). When Dean asks why, she tells him to go ask Castiel, after all, “he was your boyfriend first.”
After a double-take that probably half of the audience shared, Dean goes out to see Castiel, who is sitting in some newer car (wearing clothes, this time), listening to Don McLean’s “Vincent”. Now, I like “American Pie” (the song not the movie), but I really dislike “Vincent”. Talk about proto-emo. Jeez, show.
Dean seems to agree, as he needs a head-shaking moment to rally before he wades in and asks Castiel what’s up. Castiel goes off on a ramble about how monkeys are so smart, so why test cosmetics on them (which, admittedly, is something I wonder about, too)? He asks Dean just how important lipstick really is to him. After yet another double-take, Dean admits, “Not very.”
Inside, Castiel is more honest about what’s bugging him. It turns out that the Earthside garrison of angels from two episodes ago has fallen silent. When Castiel went to Kevin’s house, he found out why – they’re dead. Now, we only saw the two goon angels get killed, so I don’t know if we’re supposed to believe that Inias just went to ground, or got killed, too, or the writers simply forgot about him. But anyhoo, it’s apparently just Castiel now and he’s bummed. The brothers aren’t too thrilled to hear that Leviathans can kill angels, or that Kevin has been kidnapped by Dick, either. According to Castiel, it was the Leviathans’ tendency to snack on angels that got them consigned to Purgatory in the first place. I’m not sure why Castiel wasn’t aware of this during “Mommy Dearest”, but then, the entire writing staff appears to have forgotten about “Mommy Dearest”. And “Frontierland”.
When Dean presses Castiel on helping them, Castiel goes off on another ramble about the monkeys and then says that he doesn’t want to fight. He made the mess, but it’s the brothers’ problem now. This seems to be his current passive-aggressive defense – to play “mad” whenever someone presses him on an issue that makes him uncomfortable.
At that moment, Meg notices the bowl that the brothers had used to summon Crowley. Dean tells her about the spell and that Crowley didn’t show up. She decides to bail, anyway, but at that moment, Crowley finally appears. Gee, how convenient.
Crowley then proceeds to threaten Meg and snarl at the brothers and get his back up over Castiel – which I find, on the whole, utterly ridiculous considering Castiel could just white-light him into oblivion if he so chose and the brothers could shiv him with the Spork (which, funnily enough, is neither mentioned nor shown in this episode). But instead, we have the brothers looking abashed, while Meg cringes in a corner and Castiel tries to placate Crowley with honey. It’s this kind of careless writing that won’t have me missing Sera Gamble on this show.
In the end, Crowley proves toothless (and Meg has the balls to point out that he hasn’t actually yet figured out how to kill angels, something she has figured out and doesn’t share with him). He gives up a vial of his blood and tells the brothers all about the deal he made with Dick. How he is able to do this when he is supposedly bound by a signed and notarised contract is never explained. After threatening Meg again (though reluctantly deciding that Castiel likes Meg and the brothers will need Castiel, so he needs to leave both alone for now) and reassuring the brothers that Dick isn’t dumb, he teleports away.
Cut to Dick and his assistant, Susan, walking down a hallway, while Dick asks her if he looks dumb. Note to writers: If you have to keep telling us that your Big Bad is smart, something is very wrong. Stop having characters Tell us that Dick is smart and have him actually do smart things. See, the really, really smart thing, Dick, would have been not to dig up the big how-to manual on killing you in the first place.
Anyhoo, Susan, of course, reassures her boss that he does not look dumb (’cause being fired means having to bib herself), at least not in that body. Dick tells her that one of the “rules of negotiation” is to have a plan B when the other party “screws you.” Which would make sense if demon deals weren’t binding the way devil’s traps are, but hey, who cares about canon? At any rate, Susan quickly guesses that her boss’ plan is to use “the arm”. Gee, I wonder whose arm that could be? Yup. It’s the original Dick Roman’s. LevDick has Susan bring it in and then calls in his security detail.
Kevin is in another room, trying the locked door (He just tried it, huh? What was he doing before?), when a Leviathan dressed in a white coat brings in a blonde girl who walks in nonchalantly and sits down. She’s eating a Twizzler. I guess it’s the additive in the Twizzler that makes her so dopey, but I’m quite sure that eating the Twizzler is supposed to make this perky cheerleader look like a cud-chewing cow. Roofieing and killing off Buffy, are we, show?
Kevin tries to talk to her, but he doesn’t get far. He finds out her name is “Polly”, that she’s not a Prophet, that he’s “basically on my own,” and that’s about it. If Polly ever had any brains (which seems unlikely), there’s no evidence of them now. Later, the guy in the white coat comes in with a dress and tells her to “get dressed,” even though she’s already dressed in a blouse with a plunging neckline and a skirt. As she takes her clothes off right in front of Kevin, he notices that the dress comes with two barrettes. Later, we see Polly standing there, blankly, wearing the dress and only one barrette. The guy in the white coat comes in with a sandwich for Kevin, who claims he’s vegan and only takes the water (which, you know, Kevin, could easily be drugged). White Coat Flunky leads Polly out, whereupon Kevin suddenly decides he can pick a lock on a deadbolted door with a bobby pin. Um…right.
Back at Rufus’ shack, the brothers are debating whether or not Crowley hates them or Dick more, and pouring blood on the bone. Despite having read the book, too, Sam doesn’t seem to know that there is no ritual besides pouring the blood, which he does, for no apparent reason, on the handle end rather than the pointy end. Dean also has to As-You-Know-Sam that the bone is a one-shot weapon, which also strikes me as pretty lame. Nothing appears to happen, which confuses them after the thunder and lightning of cracking open the words.
Castiel appears behind them, putting a hand on Dean’s shoulder and causing him to jump in surprise. But Castiel just has sandwiches that he made from bread, veggies and a pig (which he “comforted” and “slaughtered” himself) he found in Normandy. I don’t think we’re supposed to see any ironic comparison to the way Leviathans eat humans, here. He gives Dean his sandwich first. When Sam asks why Crowley said they’d need Castiel with them when they hit Sucrocorp, Castiel insists that they don’t. He’s sitting this one out.
Kevin, having broken out of his room, spots Dick in a conference room with a bunch of Leviathan “delegates” and Polly, but is quickly caught by Susan. Dick tells the “delegates” he has not met them all together since they were “inside that angel”. He also tells them that “the sushi’s made of fresh orphan.” I roll my eyes. What is this, a Dickens novel? Dick talks about the “slaughterhouses” (Since when has there been more than one Leviathan slaughterhouse in the show until now?) and how humans will be drugged into walking right into them. Leviathans have been used to infiltrate law enforcement, starting with 911 operators, in case anyone tries to call in…what? Being driven to a slaughterhouse? That doesn’t make much sense.
Then he brings up a map in which the country is divided into regions according to how the humans will be used and later talks about curing cancer. At this point, he has Polly brought up (by White Coat Flunky, who is now in a suit and spends the entire scene smirking like an idiot). Dick puts up an overhead about weeding out certain types of people that basically boil down to short people, smart people, hemophiliacs, and skinny people. He comments that Polly is “too stoned to care” about what is about to happen (as if anybody in that room gives a crap what is about to happen to Polly) then has her take off her dress. She immediately drops it, standing there in a flesh-coloured bra and panties. Dick snarks that the Leviathans aren’t there to make “art”, so skinny people need to be weeded out, then starts talking about an additive that can be put in coffee creamer. He injects a concentrated version of the additive into Polly’s arm and she makes a cute little whimper shortly after the needle goes in. Then, a moment later, she looks bewildered as she starts to foam at the mouth. She drops at Dick’s feet, convulsing, and dies.
Yeah, this scene is as gratuitous as it sounds.
Outside, the brothers are hacking into Sucrocorp’s security cams thanks to “Charlie”‘s hacking suggestions (except that Frank already taught this trick to Dean in “Adventures in Babysitting”) and discovering something disconcerting – Dick is everywhere in the building. It seems that Dick’s security detail are taking their roles as body shields for the boss to heart. A further wrinkle presents itself when a pickup arrives and the possessed maid gets out. Sam recognises her from the motel and makes the leap to Bobby when he sees her wiping away black ectoplasmic snot. He rushes off alone to grab Bobby/Maid before they can be spotted by the security cameras, leaving Dean holding the bone. When Sam catches up to him/her, Bobby/Maid takes a swipe at Sam with a large knife and then starts to choke him out against the side of a black van. Only when Bobby sees his own reflection in the van does he finally realise what he’s doing and blast out of the maid. Sam picks her up and then he and Dean take her to the hospital, where the medics tell the brothers she will be okay. Well…physically, anyway.
Back at the cabin, while Sam is explaining the multiple Dick Romans problem to a Meg who is completely unsympathetic to the maid’s plight, Dean notices that Castiel looks uncomfortable. When Dean questions him on it, Castiel at first hedges by saying they should get a cat (I kind of pity any animal they’d get for a pet). Seeing the attempt to sidestep the issue for what it is, Dean insists that Castiel explain what Crowley meant about his being able to help with the Leviathans. Castiel refuses. His voice breaking, he says that he “destroyed everything” before and he’d just do it again. At this point, overriding Sam’s objections and Meg’s sarcasm, Dean yells at Castiel, telling him that the Leviathans are his mess and, broken or not, he needs to clean it up. I cheer. Broken Castiel may be amusing and more like a traditional angel than some of the more human permutations of a character, but as the way Dean steps back when Castiel approaches him shows, he also hurt a lot of people. And he owes the brothers – personally. Dean has every right to call him on the randomness.
Distressed, Castiel flies off. Meg snarks that Dean has just scared of “the Empire’s last hope.” When Dean asks her what she’s talking about, she points out that Castiel had all of the Leviathans inside him, so he should be able to recognise their real…well, not faces so much as essences, telling which Dick is real and which one isn’t. Unfortunately, Castiel is nuts. As if to emphasise this, Castiel reappears behind them, playing Twister.
Later, Dean is trying to watch Dick on the computer, complaining that there aren’t any “tells” for the real one because all of the fake ones also “downloaded Dick’s brain.” Well, actually, they downloaded his arm…oh, never mind.
As Sam is trying to determine what Dick might be up to that could give them a clue, Bobby suddenly appears. Rather than apologise to Sam (Oh, God forbid), he proceeds to be a complete asshole, calling them “idjits” and “morons” for not burning his flask or figuring out how to get Dick. He complains that he still wants to possess someone else and go after his enemy. Finally being honest for the first time since his death, Bobby admits that he nearly killed Sam and the maid. When Sam protests that it wasn’t Bobby’s fault, Bobby admits that, really, it was. He was arrogant enough to think he could beat becoming vengeful and he was wrong. Calmly, Dean asks him how it feels and Bobby says it feels “like an itch you can’t scratch out.” He admits he’s rabid and they need to go after Dick themselves. He begs them to burn his flask and set him free (“and when it’s your time, go.” [snort]). Naturally, Dean gets stuck with the job. Bobby says he’ll see them “on the other side” and then Dean tosses the flask onto a charcoal fire. Bobby disappears in red light, but we don’t get to see it, just the brothers’ reactions. Because God forbid that we have, for once, an actual, honest-to-goodness, unambiguous end for Bobby. No, let’s muff that up to the bitter end.
Afterward, Dean asks Castiel (who witnessed Bobby’s “death”) to go on an “errand” with him. It turns out Dean wants to bring the Impala back into service for his plan to take out Dick. After a quiet conversation in which Castiel admits that he’s starting to see his many resurrections as punishments rather than rewards, and his presence as bad luck, Dean says he’ll take Castiel’s bad luck over nothing and rather grudgingly admits that he forgives Castiel. Mischievously, Castiel asks him what the “plan” is and, for a moment, he seems like the 2014 Castiel, Merlin to Dean’s twisted Arthur. Dean says that Dick already knows they’re coming, so they’re going in “big”.
“Big” turns out to be the Impala racing down the road in the morning rain to the tune of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild”. We see the shadows of Sam and Dean in the driver’s and shotgun seats and then the car rams through the Sucrocorp sign.
Meg gets out. Despite being shot a few times, she uses Borax and a machete to take out several guards. But then she’s knocked across the lawn by two demons in suits, who tell her that Crowley wants to see her.
Meanwhile, Castiel has transported the brothers inside, where Sam goes to rescue a tied-up Kevin and Dean has Castiel run down the various Leviathans to find which one is Dick. Kevin warns Sam about the poisoned creamers and says they need to blow up the lab. In another part of said lab, Dick is drinking the creamer while gloating over the upcoming “genocide”, while White Coat Flunky boxes up little creamer packets. While Dick’s back is turned, Dean and Castiel fly in and behead the flunky. Dick professes to be underwhelmed, saying that Dean doesn’t even know if he’s got the real Dick. Dean says he doesn’t, but Castiel does. When Castiel attacks Dick, Dick tosses him across the room, giving Dean time to stab him in the chest with the bone. It doesn’t seem to work. But just as Dick starts to gloat, Castiel comes up behind him and grabs him so that Dean can pull out another bone and stab him in the neck. That one’s the real one.
Just as Sam and Kevin rush in, Dick tries to Leviathan-mouth and then bleeds black goo in waves before exploding amid evil laughter. When the mess clears, Sam finds himself alone with Kevin. Dean and Castiel are gone.
Crowley then teleports in and has two demons grab Kevin. Crowley pauses to gloat before disappearing with Kevin, leaving Sam to clean up the mess of blowing up the lab, fending off the disorganised Leviathans (who are now apparently just ordinary monsters), and – oh, yeah – finding Castiel and his brother.
Where are they? Well, we find Dean in a very dark forest, unconscious. Castiel (all serious and deep-voiced as in the past) calls to him, “Wake up!” When a groggy Dean stands up and asks where they are, Castiel asks him if he doesn’t already know. Where would Dick go in death? Dean finally realises they’re in Purgatory. He wonders how they will get out, but Castiel says they’re more likely “to be ripped to shreds, first.” Dean turns around to see spindly creatures with glowing red eyes stalking them in the dark. When he turns back, Castiel has disappeared and Dean is left alone with the approaching monsters and the desolate sound of the wind in the trees.
Review: About two-thirds of the way through a paint-by-numbers, bloody boring, and gratuitously misogynistic season finale (right about when Ghost!Bobby sang his final aria), this episode kicked it up five or six notches and finally went to town. I’m inclined to go with the popular theory doing the rounds that Jeremy Carver stepped in and rewrote that last third because it was markedly different in style and content from the first part. In fact, it was even – dare I say it? Oh, hell, I’ll just dare – good. Sam got left on his own back on earth (well…him and every living hunter in Bobby’s address book), while Dean and Castiel were transported to Purgatory after Castiel helped Dean whack Dick. I know we’d been discussing the possibility for weeks, and that I even mentioned that Purgatory as a dangerous backroads where it’s always night is perfectly affordable on the show’s budget, but it’s one thing to speculate and quite another to have the show finally come through on a really fun premise in God only knows how long.
Now, was the episode perfect? Sadly, it wasn’t even close, though it did have a few brief, shining moments that made the episode (if not the season, alas) worth watching. But it was better by far than “Swan Song”, which just about killed off my desire to watch this show. I haven’t decided yet if I like it better than last season’s finale. Maybe, just for those last ten minutes. But first, let’s look at the not-so-good and get it out of the way.
I’m gonna start with the misogyny, for the simple reason that it was ugly and it bothered me a great deal, and I never want to see that level of woman-hating bile on this show ever again. Especially disturbing is that not only did this show go into some really nasty anti-female territory under a female showrunner, but some of the worst offenses occurred in episodes she wrote. In 7.17, it mainly showed in some of the dumbest and most extraneous Damsels in Distress in the show’s record (and that bar is set very high – or low, depending on your preferences in the game of Limbo). Here, it went a few horrible steps farther.
There is, of course, Dumb Blonde Polly. Your first red flag should probably be how Polly has a rhyming almost-namesake in Dolly the Cloned Sheep. Yes, that’s right. One of, what, four female characters that are in more than one scene of the episode and got lines was named in such a way as to emphasise that she was just meat. Good to know. Even worse? I couldn’t figure out what Polly’s origins were supposed to be and I’m fairly sure that’s because Sera Gamble wasn’t too sure, herself. Was Polly some Turduckened girl snatched off the street? Cloned from a vat? Bioengineered? There were lines in Dick’s speech to support all three conclusions. The cloudiness about Polly’s origins, including whether or not she had ever been any kind of thinking person in the first place, made it hard for me to sympathise with her, even as we were treated to a full view of her cruel and callous murder – after, of course, she took her clothes off in front of a roomful of guys (and two leering token women) in suits.
There are feminist possibilities to this idea (and we have a chilling short story coming up in June’s Innsmouth Magazine issue that explores it), but Gamble manages to miss every one of them and go straight for the lowest possible common denominator. See, Polly is being used as a demonstration guinea pig in an experiment to kill off “undesirable” humans with food additives. In short, the Leviathans have this “brilliant” (Please note the quotation marks) plan to kill off skinny humans with coffee creamer. No, really. I wish I were kidding, but that’s what the episode says. There are some other factors added on in the overhead Dick brings up (hemophilia, short people and geniuses), but the Show complete ignores this ass-covering Tell. Really, it’s all about killing off skinny humans.
If the analogy of women being meat weren’t disgusting enough, Dick has Polly take off her dress right before he injects her with poison that causes her to convulse and drop, still vacant-eyed, to the floor, dying with foam on her lips. There is no reason for Dick to have Polly strip down (We don’t need the dress off to tell that she’s skinny). The only reason for it is to give members of the audience a full, lascivious view of barely-legal Polly in her bra and panties before her nasty exit, emphasised by supposedly libidoless Dick saying, “But we’re not here to make art.” Yes, the Leviathans aren’t just killing off skinny people – they’re killing off hot chicks. O the humanity.
Excuse me while I pause to hurl. I can’t afford to ruin this computer screen.
This isn’t the first time I’ve ever seen this trope of turning the bodies of dead women, or the murders of helpless women, into objects of erotic art. In fact, I bet this isn’t the first time you’ve ever seen it, either, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock and have never seen a slasher flick or a pulp magazine cover. Even now, we have entire franchises of shows (like the CSIs and Criminal Minds) that have turned the pitiless slaughter of attractive, scantily clad young white women into an art form whereby you are expected to get your rocks off (at least, if you’re male) from some poor girl’s moment of death. When men get slaughtered in similar ways (say, in certain types of war films), guys get skeeved out by tropes like hurt/comfort and Yaoi. I can’t say that I blame them, but I get a little skeeved out myself when I point out that pretty women having drills shoved through them and being sliced up while naked in the shower are images just as skeevy – and I get a blank look, followed by: “But it’s a classic! And anyway, she was totally hot jailbait!” I don’t want to be judgemental, but anybody who thinks dead bodies are sexually attractive gets the side-eye and a quick retreat from me. I find even faux-necrophilia pretty damned creepy. And yes, I have seen Kissed. It’s still pretty damned creepy and just plain out of character for a bunch of monsters whose big thing is eating people not shagging them. But what am I saying? This is the same writer who gave us the Sam/Ruby-in-a-dead-meatsuit sex scene in “I Know What You Did Last Summer”.
You might say that we saw previous test subjects of the Leviathans who died and they weren’t young and hot. You’re right. They weren’t. And did you care about them? Nope. You didn’t. The subtext in scenes like the one where the test family keeps eating and watching eye surgery on the telly while Grandma lies dead nearby, or the stoned-out patrons in the grocery store, is that the behaviour of these folks is only slightly exaggerated for satirical effect. Fat, ugly, poor people may not be that dumb in real life, but they’re still pretty dumb – at least, according to the writers. They may not be that indifferent to the way they are being manipulated into stumbling off a cliff like a bunch of toked-up Lemmings in real life, but they’re still pretty indifferent. Even Dean’s being Turduckened is played for comic effect because – hardy-har – he’s a white-trash drifter with a GED, so he must be dumb, too. The only time we are invited to care is when the test subject is a hot chick. And even then, do we care about her brains or her compassion or her scintillating personality? No, because she doesn’t have any. All she has are her barely-legal cheerleader looks, which we’re invited to check out, guilt-free, as she goes down like a pole-axed skinny cow in a sick parody of roofie rape/murder.
This just makes the Americentrism that much more irritating. Really, if you’re going to write a story about a group of vicious, insatiable creatures invading the world from another realm, how about not equating the conquest of the United States with the assumed conquest of the other nearly-seven-billion humans on the planet? Try to be at least a little more freakin’ cosmopolitan than the mouth-breathers you’re writing about. Otherwise, it makes you look dumb.
Another major problem with the entire boardroom scene that culminates with Polly’s murder is how bland and unscary it is, not to mention very poorly thought-out-and-researched (though the fact that the entire Leviathan plot this season employed a glaringly bright colour scheme that made season three look like the gloom of a crypt doesn’t help). Never, at any moment, did I feel that this reflected anything whatsoever of the writer’s fears. I said in the comments section a few weeks back that I still had no idea what scared Sera Gamble because her scripts never reflected her fears. I do have a pretty good idea of what turns her on, though. Which is fine if you’re writing romantic dramas for the Lifetime Network but not when you’re writing for a horror show that is a commentary on the entire genre. This is probably why so many fans have complained about her “fangirl” fantasies. Is that sexist? Yeah, it is. But it has some truth to it. Essentially, Gamble seems to be tapping into the wrong part of her subconscious for this show and, therefore, writing in entirely the wrong genre. This is not paranormal romance. It’s not even dark fantasy. It’s horror. And she should be writing about what scares her not what gets her rocks off.
What scares women often also scares the hell out of men (to the point where some guys really can’t hack feminist horror, at all, especially when they take it personally). Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, may be a very cautionary story for women about allowing ourselves to lose our hardwon rights to extremists, but the narrator still survives. It’s her husband who ends up a doornail in the forest, murdered so that some rich guy can have his pretty, fertile wife. “The Screwfly Solution” by Raccoona Sheldon (AKA James Tiptree Jr.) is a horror story about how aliens introduce something into the ecosystem that causes men to murder women, but it’s the men who are turned into violent zombies that kill everyone they love.
There is none of this fear in “Survival of the Fittest”. Nor is there any real political horror and certainly no ethnic horror. You wouldn’t know from this entire season that most of the rich 1% being satirised are white. Token minorities like Kevin and Susan just muddy the waters. We have Edgar who is Hispanic and the possessed maid who is Hispanic, yet no one ever comments on this. What, nothing whatsoever about using illegal immigrants to go back over the border and take down Mexico for the Leviathans? And why are the Leviathans even bothering to kill off skinny blonde girls who can at least make more human babies when you’d think they would target gays first? Plenty of room for topical horror and satire there, and it would absolutely make sense for the Leviathans to target the entire LGBT community, even for them to gobble up and copy right-wing corporate stooges to do it. Not to mention that Crowley is openly gay, while Gamble has pointedly made Dean and Castiel’s friendship as stereotypically gay as she could, and these are characters whom the Leviathan openly despise. It would have made all kinds of sense to make the Leviathans homophobic.
You’ll find none of that here because the writers simply don’t care. Take, for example, the map that Dick throws up onto the overhead in the meeting, dividing up the country according to things like “Livestock”, “Testing”, “Labor”, and “Breeding”. It’s sheer meanness to make the entire southern part of the United States “Livestock” (and I’m pretty sure it never occurred to the writers that this is also a part of the U.S. with a high percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics). It makes no sense to have the entire western half “Labor”. Aside from California and parts of the Pacific Northwest, that’s a largely unpopulated and non-industrial area, still. Where’s the labour? Also, it makes no sense for the entire Midwest and Northeast be for “Testing”, and why make Florida, which has a high percentage of non-fertile retirees, the only area for “Breeding”? Unsurprisingly, Dick simply ignores Alaska and Hawaii, considering the unimaginative way the Lower 48 is divided up. The only mildly interesting part of the map is that Canada and Mexico are slated for “Future Development”, indicating that Dick intended to weasel out of his deal with Crowley all along.
Maybe the writers should have spent more time working out the motives and modus operandi of their Big Bads, and less on coming up with dumb jokes about the name “Dick”.
But the episode is not done with the misogyny and idiotic motivations, not at all. We haven’t yet gotten to the puir, stereotypical, Hispanic maid that Bobby possessed last week (That gagging you may hear is Silvia’s). Oh, Lordie. I do have to give props to the actress, who did a very good job in switching back and forth between terrified and coldly angry. She definitely got across the idea of being possessed. But the way this was dealt with in the script was far too cavalier. Apparently, if you’re the ghost of a good guy and you possess some innocent, it’s somehow not as bad as if you are the ghost of a sociopathic school bully (and even then we got a freakin’ sob backstory). Repeatedly possessing her and dragging her body from pillar to post, as she screams and begs for mercy, isn’t a really unpleasant horror metaphor for supernatural rape at all. And you only cross the line when you try to choke out the writer’s favourite character. You’re just…you know…desperate to do your part, so what you’re doing is understandable if not completely excusable.
No, I’m sorry, but it’s not. Not understandable and not excusable.
I’ll come right out and say it – killing Bobby off repeatedly was a terrible idea. Right up there with making Sam soulless. First of all, they didn’t need to Mary-Sue him up to nauseating levels in the first nine episodes (Since when can Bobby shoot down something up a tree in the dark in “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters” when “Sin City” shows him barely able to shoot a possessed human standing all of ten or twenty feet away under a streetlight?). Second, if they were going to kill him, they should have done it -WHAM! – and then moved on to showing the brothers dealing with it. Not this crap where he got an entire pseudo-clips episode to wander around his own brain, whinging to himself, and then still came back later on as a ghost. If they’d killed him off in that cliffhanger for 7.09, I’d have missed him, but I’d have remembered him fondly. By the time we got to the season finale, I was chanting to Dean, “Toss it in! Toss it in!” when Bobby was urging Dean to torch his flask. And it was especially annoying that Bobby gave it one last college try to blame it all on the brothers for not burning his flask. Hmm. They salted and burned his bones. Pretty sure that if they had burned the flask early on, just to be sure, he’d have attached himself to something else. And they needed those books for research. Take the blame like a man, Bobby, even if you haven’t been one in a while.
To add a final insult, we got sappy Amazing Stories music throughout that scene and then we didn’t even see him go up in fiery smoke.
Oh, yeah, and the nun “boning” jokes? What the hell, show?
Somewhat a save in the female character department was Meg getting to drive the Impala and kill Leviathans. Sure, some fans weren’t thrilled that she was inducted into the Fraternity of the Blessed Transportation, but I greatly preferred that to Dean once again having his IQ reduced to negative numbers for the sake of some awesome entrance that would have gotten anyone else killed. Instead, it was a feint so that Dean and the others could slip inside – and then we got another feint when Dean stuck Dick with a false bone in order to distract him long enough to stick him with the real one. I’ll trade a grand-but-futile entrance in for a sneaky-and-successful attack any time.
Speaking of bad guys who are sometimes good guys, meh on Crowley. Here’s a hint, show – when you have to dumb down your heroes to give a bad guy any kind of advantage, you need to upgrade or write out the bad guy. Crowley is small potatoes. He’ll always be small potatoes; it’s the way he’s designed. His whole character is defined by his reach exceeding his grasp, of his being a low villain who thinks he’s a Big Bad. Even now that he’s King of Hell, the crown lies very uneasy on his head because he knows, deep down, he’s unworthy of the position and has established a precedent that other, equally unworthy demons could follow. The speculations of some fans that he is not a demon, that he could be Gabriel in disguise or even God, only underline the reality that he doesn’t work as a Big Bad. If he needs that kind of bolstering, then he’s playing well out of his league. Characters who do this must inevitably fall. It’s the classic story of hubris that Castiel underwent earlier this season.
Dick has the opposite problem. His goals are too small for the leader of the most terrifying monsters who ever lived, who were locked away in Purgatory so that they couldn’t eat up the “entire Petri dish”. The writers this past season have invited us to be terrified by the Biggest Big Bads Evah…and then given us The Knights Who Say ‘Ni’ (“We want…a SHRUBBERY!”). What is especially nonsensical is the idea that pampered rich people in suits and corporate rooms are actually powerful in and of themselves. Essentially, they aren’t. Their power derives from other people using them to make money and vice versa (and the sickness of our society is that too many selfish and idiotic elements in the other 99% are quite happy to support them because they want to be in the 1%).
But events like the Wall Street Crash of 1929 (let alone Stage IV cancer or a mugger’s bullet) show how ephemeral that power is. Why would the Leviathans decide that the best way to take over the world with humans as a sustainable food supply (and why only humans? Why not eat dogs, cats, chickens, horses, elephants, maggots, etc.?) is for their leader to eat some corporate slimeball, run for President, and buy out a company that makes food additives so that it can invent chemicals that make people stupid? Why not just eat the people they need to copy? Why even bother to stay under the radar when they can’t be killed and can barely be contained? If Dick wants to be President, why doesn’t he just eat the President? If the Leviathans want to quietly farm humans, why not copy and eat farmers and others in the food industry? Why did Dick need to use such human means to manipulate other humans when he and his species had so many abilities that could allow them to cut right through the red tape? How did they even become so highly socialised after aeons in what looks like one big, dark jungle full of predators?
And last but not least on Dick, pick a different friggin’ expression, sometimes, Fearless Leader! Making a demon deal? Grimace. Injecting a helpless young girl with a deadly compound that kills her in seconds? Grimace. Getting taken by surprise and killed like the preternatural roach that you are? Grimace. Good Lord. Boring, much? Not even ripped-from-the-headlines gross-outs about baby sushi can make this guy scary.
Now, let’s talk Purgatory, easily the best part of the episode (Hell, I’d say the season, but “Time After Time” was pretty damned good) and the part that everyone is talking about. That last scene was truly dark and chilling, and I was all for it. Aside from the complaints from the usual suspects about how Sam and Dean weren’t together (and how dire things shall occur if they’re not reunited next season, pronto, by God!), it was surprising how strongly positive was the reaction in the fandom, across various discussion boards. Fans who had bashed the rest of the season finally perked up and talked about wanting to see a season eight. No, the overnight demo wasn’t so hot (though it may rise in the final), but the ratings of an episode have more to do with audience opinion of the previous week (and the after-episode buzz for “There Will Be Blood” was pretty bad) than of an episode they haven’t seen yet and, therefore, must decide to tune into based on the previous week and promos they may or may not like. Bottom line – between the recent renewal/announcement of next season’s move to Wednesdays and the positive buzz for the cliffhanger, the show is going into the summer Hellatus in excellent shape.
What was so great about this last scene (It was very nice to see Dean outsmart Dick and get the kill against him, especially with the help of Castiel who needed some redemption, but the scene itself was kinda bleah) was how it introduced a brand-new environment loaded with potentially great plots. Is it possible to screw up Dean and Castiel being stuck in Purgatory? Yes. For a start, I think it would be a very, very, very, very, VERY bad idea for the writers to forget show canon in the face of their new enthusiasm about this new venue for stories and use it as an excuse to bring back every character that ever died. Show canon has endured quite enough buggery in the past three seasons:
Good way to do it: Dean has killed an awful lot of monsters and they’re all in Purgatory. Anyone from Gordon to Madison to several shapeshifters, to Amy and Emma could show up (Okay, I’d rather not see Amy again, ever). If the writers pick a few oldies-but-goodies (and maybe some new characters) for Dean to run from/fight against, it could be lots of fun.
Bad way to do it: Season six explicitly separated the SPNverse into five realms: Heaven, Earth, Hell, Purgatory, and Faerie (and only Dean has been to all five). Earth is the big crossroads. Like Rick’s, everybody comes there if they can. Demons frequently escape Hell; fairies travel over from Faerie if they can sucker some human to make a deal. No human souls return from Heaven unless the angels give permission (and there seem to be some backdoor deals involving temporary raising of ghosts). No human souls return from Faerie and if they do, they’re quickly retrieved if at all possible. Purgatory is almost impossible to exit. Basically, someone has to open a door from earth for someone from Purgatory to escape and the spell is not easy to do.
Human souls are the only ones that can change their nature and also go from Earth to another place as part of the Reaper exchange. Once they reach their destination, that is their permanent home. This means that demons can clamber back up to Earth and possess live humans, but when exorcised, they don’t go to Heaven or Purgatory; they just return to Hell. When killed by the Sparkly Spork o’ Doom or the Colt (and, probably, angel fire), they simply cease to exist. Angels don’t have souls, so when they are killed, they just die, too. Is it possible there is yet another realm where those that have been killed permanently in the known realms end up? Sure. But it ain’t Purgatory. Purgatory is for monster souls.
We know this for two reasons – one is that Eve’s motives in season six only make sense if she only received monster souls in Purgatory. Why bother to make monsters that will monsterise a bunch of weak-ish human souls when you have the power to whack angels and demons right and left, then watch them be ferried off to your realm to add to your overall power, also draining off the power of your rival realms (though Heaven with its 100 billion souls continues to be pretty untouchable by anyone else, even individual angels)? Two is that Eve clearly stated she was the Mother of all monsters, creating each one via Alpha monsters. Angels have no Alpha. Neither do demons. And neither do ghosts. Therefore, they can’t be monsters that are Purgatory-bound because only monsters that came from Eve (and Leviathans) are sent to Purgatory. God made angels and humans. Lucifer made demons. And ghosts are just the lost souls of humans who wouldn’t leave earth after their bodies died. They have no connection to Eve or Purgatory.
This means that characters like Bobby, Gabriel, Raphael, Azazel, Alastair, Lilith, Molly, Mary, John, the Phoenix, Jo, Ellen, Ash, or Lenore have no business being in Purgatory unless Carver & Co. decide to masticate canon even more, because they have either ceased to exist (per Death’s statement in “Appointment in Samarra” that nothing, including souls, is truly immortal) or belong to other realms. There’s nothing preventing the Leprechaun or the other fairies from popping in, though. Whether the dead Alphas might show up there is open to interpretation. Hell hounds? Well…we’re not sure what Hell hounds are. But since it’s only really possible to kill them using the Spork or by one eating the other, they’re probably not in Purgatory. Dick really shouldn’t be there, either. If he’s black oil that escaped from Purgatory and that essence then died on the earth, he has no soul that can flee back to Purgatory. That black oil was the equivalent of his soul.
Incidentally, if the Leviathans are insatiable and can eat each other permanently, and Purgatory is full of creatures hunting each other for eternity, how did the other monsters keep from being eaten? I’m guessing that Eve was the head Leviathan before she was killed and rode herd on the others to protect her “children”. This would explain both Dick’s weirdly conservationist approach to eating humans and Edgar’s bitterness about Eve (Crowley guessed that Dick had always been the Leviathans’ leader, but he wouldn’t actually know for sure). In essence, Eve may have done exactly the same thing with her monsters versus the other Leviathans as God did with humans versus angels – protecting the weaker group by forcing the stronger group to keep their hands off. And we all know how well that went down with the angels.
Really bad way to do it: Dean and Castiel spend most of their time in Purgatory randomly encountering dead monster characters and drifting off into clips recaps of greatest hits from old episodes. No action occurs.
Good way to do it: Dean and Castiel could be stuck in Purgatory for a while, with Sam back on earth, “alone”. Properly drawn out, this could give all three characters a fair bit of time for growth. Sam could be turning into NuBobby by organising and talking to Hunters to try to rescue Kevin and send Crowley back to Hell with his barbed tail between his legs (or kill him outright). Dean could become even more feral and perhaps get a perverse kick out of rediscovering his Inner Badass in the Ultimate Hunt. Castiel could slowly redeem himself with Dean and rediscover his inner balance (as well as, perhaps, his faith in God). A season of this would probably be too long. A half-season would be okay, but it might strain the budget and the patience of some fans. A six-episode cycle would be nice, though.
Bad way to do it: Dean and Castiel are rescued within the first episode or two – even worse, within the teaser. Sure, the opening to “Lazarus Rising” was awesome, but that only works once.
Really bad way to do it: A super-convenient time jump that leapfrogs over the issue completely and starts the season with Dean and Castiel back on earth, already. Talk about a waste of a really good premise.
Good way to do it: After a twisted journey down the charcoal brick road, Dean and Castiel figure out how to break out of Purgatory, with maximum carnage. Maybe even with some help from Sam and his new friends on the other side.
Bad way to do it: Sam breaks Dean and Castiel out of Purgatory and, in the process, rediscovers his Inner Sammy Stu, along with a hot new demon girlfriend. Dean and Castiel spend the rest of the season alternately feeling guilty about Sam’s awesome non-sacrifice and resenting him for being a pompous jackass about it/worry that he’s going dark…again.
Really bad way to do it: God rescues them and they pop back onto earth on a Greyhound bus headed to Albuquerque, with no explanation ever given.
So, a lot depends on how things go with the new showrunner and whatever motley writing crew he gathers together – not to mention that ideas alone won’t cut it. Sera Gamble had several very good ideas, but the execution was pedestrian and linear at best, and slow, boring and sometimes offensive, at worst. If Carver blows it, he blows it. We won’t know how he does until he gets in there and writes a season. Since I was wishing he’d take over from Kripke as early as season five, I’m one of those who don’t see what we have to lose.
Sam: We could call Castiel again.
Dean: Dude, on my car. He showed up naked, covered in bees!
Sam: Sister Mary Constant: 83 years of quiet, humble, nun-like goodness. What do you think?
Dean: Wow. I wanna be more righteous just reading this.
Meg: You deal with him. I can’t, anymore.
Dean: You might want to be more specific.
Meg: I was laying low halfway across the world, when Emo Boy pops up out of nowhere and zaps me right back here.
Meg: Go ask him. He was your boyfriend first.
Dean: Okay, Cas, what’s up?
Castiel: Well, Dean, I’ve been thinking: Monkeys are so clever and they’re sensible in that they leave the skins on the bananas that they eat. Is it really necessary to test cosmetics on them? I mean, how important is lipstick to you, Dean?
Dean: Not very.
Castiel: Do we need a cat? Doesn’t this place feel one species short?
Dean: We can’t “leave it.” You let these friggin’ things in. So, you don’t get to make a sandwich. You don’t get a damned cat. Nobody cares that you’re broken, Cas. Clean up your mess!
Castiel: You know, we should play Twister. [flies off] Meg: Nice. You scared off the Empire’s only hope.
Castiel: If we attack Dick and fail, then you and Sam die heroically, correct?
Dean: I don’t know. I guess.
Castiel: And at best, I die trying to fix my own stupid mistake or don’t die, brought back again. I see, now, it’s a punishment resurrection. It gets worse every time.
Dean: I’m sorry. We’re talking about God crap, right?
Castiel: I’m not good luck, Dean.
Dean: Yeah, well, you know what? Bottom of the ninth, you’re the only guy left on the bench – sorry, but I’d rather have you. Cursed or not. And anyway, nut up. We’re all cursed. I seem like good luck to you? [off Castiel's smile] What?
Castiel: I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I detect a note of forgiveness.
Kevin [to Sam]: Dick’s got creamer in the lab. He’s gonna kill all the skinny people!
Dick: Did you really think you could Trump me?
Dean: Honestly? No. [stabs him in the neck as Castiel grabs Dick from behind] Figured we’d have to catch you off-guard.
Next Week: Folsom Prison Blues: Enter the dark and scary woods of Purgatory – sorry, Summer Hellatus – with me as we retro recap from here to October, starting with a prison classic from season two.