Column: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.22: Clip Show

 

[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]

Tagline: Crowley races to stop the brothers from completing the Third Trial by killing off people they once rescued. Meanwhile, Metatron approaches Castiel to do a series of trials from the Angel Tablet.

Recap: Fifty-second recap of the previous episode and Abaddon. Cut to Now at a cabin in Lost Creek, Colorado. Sound vaguely familiar? That might be because the Doomed Teaser Guy this week is Tommy Collins, the young man the brothers rescued in the show’s second episode, “Wendigo.”

Seems he’s randomly decided to take his current, rather clueless, girlfriend to the cabin to overcome his PTSD from that episode. Sure, it was eight seasons ago, but he’s still traumatized, by God. His girlfriend thinks he’s a wuss, as he flashes back to being kidnapped by the Wendigo.

Sadly, he’s right – he is being stalked. He keeps hearing growls outside the cabin and arms up with a blowtorch he brought with him. Alas, he’s geared up to fight the wrong monster. He grabs his head in pain, and is tossed around the room, while blood comes out of his ears and eyes. Right in front of his shocked girlfriend, his head explodes, covering her with the show’s now-trademark blood splatter. Though we do get a headless body for the gorehounds.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the bunker, where Dean is handing Sam some files from the Men of Letters’ archive of demonic possessions: “Everything from Borden, Lizzie to Crane, Ichabod.” LOL!

Just in case we were hoping to have an episode that was Sampain free, Sam suddenly gets a migraine. How convenient. Guess who will be stuck both nursemaiding his brother and doing research now?

Dean compares Sam’s Trialberculosis to an epic hangover he once had, referencing “Yeager.” At this point, Castiel appears and Dean walks away. Sam and Castiel have a conversation about their respective afflictions, since Castiel is still healing from his Crowley-induced visceration of the previous episode. I guess this also answers the question of whether angels can enter the bunker. Castiel comments favorably on the neatness of the place, but Sam warns him they just haven’t been there long enough, yet. Dean’s working on getting a ping-pong table. O the horror.

Dean returns with lunch for Sam, which consists of a half-drunk beer, some beef jerky and some peanut butter cups. When Sam whines about the lack of provisions, Dean agrees to do a grocery run. At this point, we discover that he is freezing Castiel out and it’s not just a coincidence that he keeps walking past the angel as if he’s not there.

Castiel abjectly apologizes. Dean challenges him on what, exactly, the apology is about. Is it for abandoning them without a word, running off with the Angel Tablet and losing it, or refusing to answer their prayers? Castiel admits it’s all of those things, but Dean is still not impressed. What especially angers him is that Castiel didn’t trust him and he’s not up for forgiving it, this time.

Sam clears his throat and interrupts Dean’s tongue-lashing by asking about a Room 7B. Interestingly enough, Dean appears to be the expert on the layout of the bunker, not Sam.

When they head downstairs, they find that Room 7B is a vault. Sam urges Dean to “go easy” on Castiel, that he meant well. Dean points out that if anybody else had done the things Castiel has done, he would have killed them, already, “on principle.” Sam’s only reason for Dean forgiving Castiel is because “it’s Cas.” Sam is always great at trying to get everyone else to lay down their grudges. His own, not so much. Look at Benny.

Dean shrugs and gets to the task.

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Now, I know a lot of fans have problems with Dean being angry with Castiel, but I think there are several reasons for it, aside from the obvious one of isolating Castiel so that he can go off and become Metatron’s dupe. One is that Dean is right – Castiel has done some really horrible things and if it had been anyone else, Dean would have killed them by now. It’s only because of their “profound bond” that Dean has backed off his usual homicidal policy and even tolerated Castiel in the bunker.

Another is that more than one of these horrible things has involved Castiel doing serious bodily harm to Dean, as recently as “Goodbye Stranger.” It would be unrealistic, especially given how little contact they’ve had since, for Dean to be all hearts and flowers with Castiel right away. If anything, Dean’s inability to get beyond the betrayal and lack of trust, combined with his inability to kill Castiel, says a lot more about the depth of his feelings and their friendship than any words could. Besides, Castiel deserves a lot more anger from Dean. Anything less would make Dean look like the kind of battered partner that he does already with Sam. And we don’t want that.

A third is that Castiel lost the Angel Tablet – after declaring he had to protect it from both Heaven and Dean – to the King of Hell. Sure, Metatron got it back (though this episode ignores that point completely), but we don’t know yet if Dean knows that. Sure, the brothers might have lost the Tablets on their own, but the fact remains that the Leviathan Tablet turned out to be pretty secure in their hands, while the Demon and Angel Tablets were lost by Kevin and Castiel, respectively. So, Dean has a really good point, there. If anything, he should be more pissed off at Kevin than he is, too.

Fourth, it’s a good way to keep Castiel sympathetic. Castiel, by admitting that he screwed up and abjectly apologizing, while trying to make amends, satisfies the anger in the audience about the above screw-ups, not to mention the whole genocidal Godstiel Incident. It may be painful for Castiel fans to watch, but consider how much damage not going through this process with Sam has done to his character. Sometimes, in order to stay sympathetic, a character’s gotta take his/her lumps.

Back in the story, Sam identifies a file with the number 1138 (a George Lucas joke). In Vault 7B, Sam explains that the Men of Letters had a classification system for “Infernal Events.” The one in The Exorcist would have been a Class Two. This one is a Class Five, which is intended to give us an idea that it was pretty serious.

Down there, they find an archive and Sam discovers canisters of old film in a box labeled “1138.” Meanwhile, Dean is noticing odd circular marks on the floor and turns a bookshelf around to reveal a hidden dungeon. He also notices shackles on the walls with devil’s traps engraved in them. Dean is far more perky than is healthy at the prospect of having a dungeon at his disposal.

The brothers go back upstairs and rev up a movie projector (Of course the Men of Letters had one). With Castiel sitting in. And Jiffy Pop popcorn.

The film is black-and-white and narrated by Josie Sands, sometime before she became Abaddon’s host. She’s filming a young priest, Father Simon, starting off with his sitting on some steps, smoking. He’s shy and uncertain. Another man calls to him. As he goes, he tells Josie, “It’s my first time.” We see Josie briefly in the mirror, wearing a plaid shirt and trousers.

Sam is surprised, calling her Abaddon. Dean corrects him, noting she’s “not kill-y enough.” He accurately identifies her as Abaddon’s unfortunate host.

The film progresses into a sort of church cellar, where an older priest has a crone restrained with the same chains as those the brothers just found (I say “crone” because the actress, who does a nice job of doing creepy, is made up to look barely human). Her eyes are demon black and she croaks that everyone the priests and Josie love will die. The brothers and Castiel, in the present are not at all impressed. Been there, done that.

The older priest tosses holy water on the crone across candle flames, making her scream in pain. The young priest looks terrified, clutching a rosary in an outstretched, shaking hand while the older priest shouts out the Rituale Romanum. These flashbacks are actually pretty effective, referencing the film, The Last Exorcism and resembling the archival footage on Zero Hour. Some very nice direction, acting and set design here. Too bad the episode has so little of them.

The older priest, still chanting, cuts his hand and then slaps it over the crone’s mouth. As he does so, the crone’s eyes shine white and there is an explosion. Josie turns the camera to herself. Then she turns it to the crone, who lies dead, eyes staring and chest burst open.

“Where’s the demon?” Josie says, confused.

“Stop filming!” the older priest says. When she keeps asking the question, he yells at her and grabs the camera. The film ends.

Afterward, Dean agrees that the notation about the film in the archival list (“Weird – with three exclamation points”) is entirely accurate. Sam says they changed the words, with Castiel saying that they used ‘luster,’ the Latin word for “cleansed” (Well, actually, it’s ‘lavare,’ or perhaps ‘lustrare‘ if you want to get creepy, but, hey, who’s counting?).

Dean gets everybody headed in the right direction by saying that the word changes were the least of the weird. Far more of concern were the priest cutting his hand and the dead crone’s burst chest. That was not a normal exorcism.

After Dean asks for some “commentary” on the film in the records, Sam looks up the parties involved online and finds out that the older priest, Max Thompson, died in 1958, shortly after the exorcism. The younger priest, however, is still alive and living in St. Louis.

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When Dean wonders if going there is “worth the drive,” Sam points out that this is an entirely new thing, so off they go. Castiel wants to come along, but Dean insists he stay behind and heal. He still doesn’t trust Castiel again and says that Sam, albeit “damaged…always comes through.” This, of course, is entirely wishful thinking on Dean’s part, since Sam almost never comes through for his brother, but whatever. And Dean does have a point about the healing.

In St. Louis, the brothers visit the young priest from the film, now grown old. Once again, no effort whatsoever is made to remember that the brothers are wanted for murder in St. Louis, despite the fact that “Skin” came only a few episodes after “Wendigo.” And nobody seems to remember “Slash Fiction,” at all.

The now-old priest, Father Simon, is played by Donnelly Rhodes, who played a Miraculously Surviving Doomed Teaser Guy in “Wendigo.” This is a little confusing, especially since there is no acknowledgement of the recast. He says that Father Thompson was killed a few months after the previous scene was filmed, torn apart, but he had engaged in several more exorcisms before that. Our Exposition Fairy, however, could not bear to go through another exorcism (According to him, the demon escaped rather than being destroyed). It seems that Father Thompson was convinced that he could “save” demons by curing them (oh, look, relevance to the mytharc). When Dean asks if such cured demons are now stuck inside their hosts, but bound for Heaven, the priest says he doesn’t know.

Sam starts to ask some questions, but coughs up some blood and excuses himself to go to the bathroom. When the priest asks if Sam is all right, Dean says no. Dean then continues that Sam is going save the world by ridding it of demons and goes off on a paen to Special Sammy that just makes me cringe. Dean, dear, in case you haven’t noticed, Sam is doing jack besides fainting about like some Victorian tragic heroine. You are doing all the work.

There is a darker subtext to this, though, in that Dean informs the priest that Sam will complete the Trials, no matter what, and one wonders about those times that Sam didn’t want to go on. When Father Simon agrees to give Dean Father Thompson’s things, one wonders whether he’s motivated by admiration for Dean’s love of his brother or trepidation at Dean’s obsessive focus.

Cut to a very sweet scene of Castiel going to a quickie mart. Seems he’s decided to go out and do some shopping for Dean, picking up things like Busty Asian Beauties and beer, breaking eggs and knocking over a rack, and upsetting the clerk, who follows him around saying, “Dude!” But the clerk finds out Castiel’s fierce side when it turns out there’s no pie. Castiel grabs him over the counter and tells him he needs pie (for Dean). Awww.

Fortunately for the clerk, Metatron flies in behind Castiel and tells him to “put the virgin down” (Ever wonder if all the jokes about virginity on this show are lots of overcompensating from the writers?). Castiel is shocked, never having met Metatron before.

Outside, Metatron introduces himself, though insisting that Castiel call him “Marv” in public. He says Kevin told him about Castiel and thought they might bond over both being outcasts from Heaven. He also thinks they ought to do something about the situation in Heaven. According to Metatron, Heaven is actually a “war zone” without the archangels and not the organized camp Naomi made out. How Metatron knows this when he says he’s been out of the loop for billions of years is not explained.

Metatron calls the situation “broken.” Castiel agrees, but doesn’t think he can do anything about it, since he’s largely responsible for the breakage (Cue a brief flashback to Heaven and Godstiel standing over a field of dead angels and then in Purgatory).

Busting up Castiel’s self-imposed flaggelation, Metatron paints Castiel a portrait of putting the angels all together into a single room to work it out, shutting down Heaven. When a flabbergasted Castiel asks him what he means, Metatron mentions a great crepes place and flies off. Ummm … wasn’t Metatron supposed to have been living in seclusion forever and a day? How does he know about restaurants?

Cut back to the bunker, where the brothers are looking over Father Thompson’s stuff and Sam is worrying that Castiel left town. Dean shrugs this off. He’s got more important things to do, like figuring out how Father Thompson cured a demon. To that end, he’s discovered an audio tape dated August 3, 1958, which was two days before Father Thompson died.

Cue a black-and-white flashback, in which Father Thompson is discussing his latest subject, a black man named ‘Peter Kent’ who had two young children – at least, until a demon possessed him and murdered them. Father Thompson proceeds to inject the demon with his own blood (purified by going to Confession), while asking it a question: “When you crawled into Mr. Kent and ate his children, how did it feel?”

For the first few hours, the demon defiantly brags that it enjoyed every minute of the infanticide and cannibalism. But slowly, a change comes over it. After eight hours, the man’s eyes clear, while the demon becomes confused and begs him to stop. Father Thompson then splashes the host in the face with holy water, slices his own hand while reciting the Rituale Romanum, and slaps the bleeding hand across the man’s mouth. A bright light bursts from the man’s eyes and the demon screams. When the light fades, the demon is remorseful and begs forgiveness for what it did. Father Thompson embraces the man, and declares him and the demon “saved.”

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Sam shuts off the tape and asks rhetorically if Father Thompson just cured a demon (55 years intervening). Dean says, yup, sounds like it. Dean then gets down to business, asking Sam what the setup requires. After listing off the purified blood and such, Sam wonders if they need to trap a demon. Dean is way ahead of him, saying they’ve already got one on ice and all they need is John’s old field surgeon’s kit in the Impala’s trunk. That sounds … gruesome.

Cut to out on the patio at the crepes place, where Metatron is enjoying lunch. Castiel appears in the seat next to him and gets hit on by the friendly waitress. After commenting that he wishes he’d picked a better-looking vessel, Metatron starts filling Castiel in on his plan to close the Gates of Heaven. Seems God’s Tablets were all intended as ways to control the various most powerful races. Leviathans getting bite-y? Send them back to Purgatory. Demons growing too big for their smoke? Banish them to Hell. Angels getting arrogant? Well … Metatron is a bit vague on how that one goes, but he’s all up on the Trials to make it happen, having written everything down. The thing is that he can’t do it because he’s just an old steno clerk. Castiel, however, can. Why Castiel, who was supposedly just a footsoldier, can do it and Metatron can’t is not explained. It seems unlikely that Castiel being a “warrior” is the true reason, since Naomi was as bureaucratic as Metatron, yet considered herself a warrior, too.

Anybody noticing some inconsistencies building up, here? And that it sounds an awful lot like this grim little New Wave number from the 80s? But of course Castiel falls for it, hook, line and sinker because Metatron plays on his guilt and his narcissism that only he can fix what he broke. Even when Metatron says that the First Trial is killing the waitress (who is a Nephilim, the only offspring on earth of the forbidden union between and angel and a human), Castiel gives in after a token protest that she is innocent. Metatron convinces him by using the “needs of the many” defense and the appeal to family. Apparently, it occurs to neither of them that the “abomination” Nephilim is also family.

Cut to a warehouse, where Sam is wondering if what they’re planning will work. Referencing Young Frankenstein for the surgery part, Dean says he thinks they can handle it. Sam then opens what looks like a curse box to uncover the head of poor Josie Sands, still containing the Knight of Hell, Abaddon. Sam is grossed out, Dean indifferent to it.

Later, while Dean holds the head on her body, Sam sews it on. As soon as they do, she wakes up. Too bad for her that she’s tied down to a chair, with the devil’s trap in her skull holding her immobile. And is missing her hands. Dean figures she wouldn’t need them.

This does not stop her snarking, but we can see she’s taken aback by Dean’s ruthlessness, not to mention how cavalier he is about her host (When sewing her back together works, he tells Sam, “You owe me a beer!”) and his calling her a “bitch.”

Despite being in the down position, Abaddon monologues about having killed Father Thompson herself, getting both the basics of the demon-curing ritual and Josie Sands’ identity from him before he died. Seems Father Thompson upset the rulers of Hell and they wanted to “make an example of him.” Then she rode Josie into the lair of Father Thompson’s allies, the Men of Letters, and killed them.

Sam gets a call. It’s from “666,” which turns out to be Crowley. For no reason that makes sense, both brothers go outside to answer it, though not before Sam’s blurting out Crowley’s name in front of Abaddon and Dean telling her, to her shock, that “the salesman” is now the King of Hell. Their absence gives Abaddon time to TK her hands out of the box nearby and pull the bullet out of the roof of her mouth (Note to the writers – it’s highly unlikely a bullet that remained in the skull would be just in the roof of the mouth and so easily removed). And yes, this scene ends, unfortunately, in as Plot Stupid a way as it sounds, not least because no thought is given to how a demon would be able to manipulate an object with a devil’s trap on it without trapping itself all over again.

Outside, Crowley is bragging all mysteriously about a newspaper entry. The brothers finally locate it and discover Tommy’s death, though only Sam remembers him. When they go back inside, they get more bad news – Abaddon’s improbable escape, especially since they improbably didn’t doubly stick her under a devil’s trap.

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Dean goes outside to look for her, while Sam discovers the devil’s trap bullet, then gets a call. It’s a text from Crowley to an address in Prosperity, Indiana. Dean, this time, is the one who remembers a hunt there and off they go. They arrive to discover a dead woman with her head in a scorched oven. It’s Cupcake Gal, Jenny Klein (named after the show’s writing assistant).

Okay, but here’s the problem. Jenny was last seen in the less-than-stellar episode, “Shut Up, Dr. Phil,” leaving town to avoid the wrath of centuries-old witch Maggie Stark, who incorrectly believed Jenny was having an affair with her husband, Don. Yet, Jenny seems to have come back to Prosperity as if nothing happened and no mention, by the brothers or anybody else, is made of either Stark, even though the killing has all the signs of a witch’s hex. She was even making cupcakes when she died, despite a quick flashback showing why you’d think she’d have sworn off them forever. It’s all very, very stupid.

Does nobody on this writing staff check on anything, anymore? Not even for coherency of plot? Come on, show. You used to be better than this.

Sam soon gets another call from Crowley, bragging about how he can kill off everyone they ever saved, since he has all the copies of Winchester Gospel novels. Except, you know, that episode came out a season and a half after the books ended. Did I mention this episode has a lot of stupid in it?

Crowley then announces that he’s going to kill someone they care about every 12 hours until they bring him Kevin and the Demon Tablet – and gives the location of the next person, whom he will kill in an hour in a hotel room in Indianapolis.

This strikes me as incredibly foolish of Crowley. Remember when he feared the Winchesters? Well, it seems as though he had a lobotomy since then and thinks provoking them will work, because that’s all this really is – provocation. Crowley has surely dealt with the brothers enough by now to know that they (Dean, anyway) have a nearly infinite capacity to absorb loss, grief and damage that doesn’t involve each other. All he’s doing is pissing them off and motivating them to find him and stop his smoking forever, because they’re never, ever going to give up their biggest advantage over him, not when they’re this close to the end of the Trials. Especially not Dean. Even so, they rush off to save the person they haven’t yet identified because hey, that’s what they do.

I suspect this plot was originally intended to involve Amelia, but fell a cropper when it turned out most fans would happily watch her die. So, the show goes for the next best thing – Sarah, Sam’s love interest from “Provenance,” who happens to be in Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, the waitress Nephilim is coming out of work after dark, while Metatron and Castiel run surveillance on (okay, stalk) her from across the street. It turns out she has superpowers (Of course she does. Dabb, who has a background in comics, is downright obsessed with shiny superpowers. Coherent plot and character motivations, not so much) and heard them coming. Well, it’s not as though they’re at all covert about it, since they’re following her maybe ten feet behind. She immediately recognizes them as angels, saying she can see their “halos.”

At first, she insists she’s an innocent and Castiel is torn, though Metatron regards her with contempt (What happened to being upset that she wasn’t attracted to his vessel?). When it becomes clear appealing to their better natures won’t stop them from killing her and cutting her heart out of her body, she kicks Castiel and Metatron’s asses pretty handily.

This, of course, is intended to make us sympathize, however slightly, with Castiel over her, but I find myself rooting for her, instead. She gets Metatron in a chokehold and turns nasty, eyes glowing with white light. Then, after her convenient reveal of hidden evil, Castiel stabs her from behind to save Metatron, killing her.

In Indianapolis, Sam is startled and dismayed to find Sarah when he knocks on the hotel room door given by Crowley. Dean follows a few minutes later with devil’s traps, holy water, rocksalt, and the like. I am mystified why neither of them thinks to move her to another location or consider that the previous deaths looked like hex work.

Sarah is surprisingly calm and, when they hand her a gun (or maybe it’s hers), seems to know how to use it. We never find out why, though she has time to chat with Sam (while Dean gets to do all the work spray-painting anti-demon sigils on the windows), indicating she’s still in the antiques business, has gotten married to a Winchester clone who does “search and rescue,” and has a daughter. Whoops. Dead Woman Walking, here. But not before she gives him a pep talk about how he “grew up” (yeah, not so much, Sarah).

Sure enough, when midnight rolls around, Crowley calls and Sarah begins to choke to death. While Sam mostly stands by her helplessly, Crowley brags about how his mother was a witch and Sam realizes it’s a spell. Dean tears the room apart and Crowley pontificates at extreme and tedious length for two minutes that it’s all their fault she’s dying and how he’s going to prevent them from getting hold of any demons for the Third Trial and they’re never going to win, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yeah, and I totally buy that whenever Bond villains do that to James – oh, wait. Crowley finally hangs up.

Right after Sarah dies, Dean smashes Sam’s phone, revealing a hex bag in it. And they just stand there rather than destroying the bag. And Sarah is still dead, even though it makes no sense. Then again, neither did large sections of this episode.

“Clip Show” ends with an almost entirely unnecessary scene (I’m guessing it’s because, even with all the half-baked plot, clips from previous episodes, and villain monologues stuffed into this, the episode ran too short), except one element at the very end. Sam is all ready to give up and pretty much blames Dean for letting all these people die. He seems to think it’s a viable idea to take Crowley’s deal, even though there is absolutely no reason to assume giving in to Crowley would save anybody.

But Dean is having none of it. He coldly informs Sam that they are going through with the Trials, no matter what, that they will find a demon and they will close the Gates. The only question is whether Sam is with him or not. So much for that grand plan, Crowley.

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Review: I don’t normally agree with those who claim that this show fridges all of its female characters or treats them worse than the male characters. In fact, I think some of the alleged feminists (and hey, I consider myself a feminist, too, so I know we don’t all agree on stuff) go so far overboard on it that they don’t examine their own views on gender in TV, thus falling into accidental misogyny. I’m especially unimpressed by those who complain about the show’s “sexism,” racism” and “homophobia,” yet can’t remember half of even the major female, GLBT or minority characters on the show. How can you discuss the nature of characters on a show when you can’t even remember who they were?

There is a smallish group of genre shows that makes an effort, however clumsy, to broaden the genre in multicultural and gender areas by including more of such characters in a respectful way (usually). Then there is the much larger group that simply can’t be arsed and goes white nerd boy fantasy all the way.

Supernatural is quite capable of going crass and insensitive. I’m willing to admit this because – welp – I’ve seen “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits.” But it still doesn’t put Supernatural in the latter group because – welp – I’ve also seen The Walking Dead. But I guess it’s easier and safer to rip the shows that are trying a new one, since they 1. care and 2. don’t have psycho racist/misogynistic/homophobic fans willing to troll and stalk you on public forums if you should dare to bring up such subjects. This results in some self-indulgent critique that is, itself, questionable.

Take, for example, the comment someone made on Spoiler TV about the miracle of Atropos, the Fate sister from “My Heart Will Go On,” having apparently survived offscreen for two seasons, despite being “a vagina.” Hmm, great way to reduce a character to a single body part, there. Classy. Her survival couldn’t possibly be predicated on anything but her vessel possessing female genitalia. Also, that image? Kinda gross.

Similarly, I thought Ellen and Jo’s final scene in “Abandon All Hope” was a Big Damn Hero moment and not fridging at all. In fact, it gloriously passed the Bechdel Test, not least because Ellen stayed to die with her daughter because Jo was her daughter, despite the brothers’ really needing her help to save the world. And they understood because of course she was going to love her daughter more than them or even saving the world. They’d have done the same thing if it had been one of them lying there.

All that said, I can’t give the same consideration to Sarah’s demise in this episode. In fact, I find myself wondering why the show keeps writers like Dabb, Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner, and Jenny Klein working for it when they write so much misogyny, on top of bad plotting, inconsistent characterization, and complete disregard for canon. Surely, there are better writers available in the industry, ones who don’t write a two-minute, boring monologue for a villain (To give you an idea, the average news feature length is 1:30). I mean, if they could replace Sera Gamble, who was no favor to fictional womankind ….

Sarah’s death is a straight-up case of Fridging a Female Character to Get the Male Leads Motivated. Note how the brothers don’t give a damn about Tommy’s death. It’s not until Jenny and then Sarah die that they really get upset.

To make matters worse, the writer (Andrew Dabb, who really needs to be fired if he’s not gotten the basics of Scriptwriting 101 down by this point) deliberately ruins her as a potential love interest such that we are not going to “miss” her after she goes. That’s because she’s gotten married and had a kid since she last saw Sam (Oooh! The betrayal!). Now, I understand that Sarah’s life moved on, just as the brothers’ did, so I don’t blame her a bit. But we all know that’s not why she pops up again as a married MILF. Nope, this is intended to make her less likeable and destroy the hopes any Sam/Sarah shippers had of ever getting her back on the show. It also reduces the fandom’s desire to see her resurrected.

And on top of all that, her death scene is clumsy and makes the brothers look stupid. We are supposed to believe, for example, that even though they discover the hex bag mere seconds after she last draws a breath that she can’t be revived, which is yet more of the writers’ laziness when it comes to medical knowledge.

Worse, we are supposed to believe that a clever Hunter like Dean, whom we saw messing with Charlie’s phone uncaught two episodes before, would not immediately think of Sam’s phone as the one thing to which Crowley had access and with which the King of Hell might have tampered. How did Crowley get the number? How about because he had access to the phone (how being never explained)? Why tear apart the room instead of the instrument through which the villain is sneering at you?

The show has frequently tried to make a villain look better by writing the brothers as stupid rather than writing the villain as smart. It never works and is roundly disliked by the audience (coughRubycoughBelacoughcough), but they keep doing it, presumably because it’s much easier to do than actually writing both sides clever.

Well, whaddaya know – it doesn’t work here, either. In fact, I found that penultimate scene excruciatingly boring and annoying in equal measure (a combination found in First Year French vocab stalwart, ‘ennuyeux‘). Rather than having Crowley do anything to win, Dabb has him monologue for an interminable time while Sarah chokes to death, Sam mopes and looks devastated, and Dean tears the room apart. The only mildly intriguing part of it was Crowley saying out of the blue that his mother had been a witch, and even that sounded totally pulled out of the writers’ asses. I kept wishing Dean would somehow find a way to reach through the phone line and choke the life out of Crowley just so he would finally shut up. Definitely a villain past his sell-by date.

Another thing that makes Crowley problematical compared to better demonic villains like Abaddon, YED, or Meg is his motivation. Yes, Crowley is ruthless, brutal and cruel, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting to be loved and worshiped – by his victims, no less. This is a hopeless goal that Abaddon et al neither bothered nor even cared to pursue. The fear and hatred of their enemies and victims was the whole point, just as long as annihilation followed soon after. Crowley, on the other hand, wants to torment and torture his enemies, but also make them love him. He’s like King Joffrey grown up and whining for the past three seasons, and that’s as tedious as it sounds.

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Speaking of making the brothers look stupid, what was up with ruining an actually quite good buildup to Abaddon’s return by having the brothers leave her alone with a box full of her hands, to answer a single phone call together, just so she could escape? This is supposed to be a powerful, sneaky, clever, ancient demon. Surely, Dabb could have come up with a scenario that didn’t make the brothers look like fools in order to make Abaddon look smart. That was just crappy writing.

It’s too bad because the buildup, even to the point where they had her in a warehouse rather than the bunker, was quite interesting. And, of course, it was clever to use their one demon on ice for the final Trial.

The film-within-a-film gave us some backstory on Josie, Abaddon’s poor, beat-up host and sometime friend of their grandfather, while also evoking Zero Hour and its Nazi home movies. The idea of a priest being able to cure a demon with his purified blood was an interesting one, though I did roll my eyes at the obvious applications the writers were going for with Purified Sammy and the Demon Cure o’ Doom. The writing was a bit too linear, there.

Also, speaking of fridged characters, let’s not forget poor Tommy in the teaser or Cupcake Gal Jenny from that godawful witch episode. I noticed people got much more up in arms over Sarah getting killed than either of them (especially since kills of men are a dime a dozen on this show, at this point). We didn’t even see Cupcake Gal’s face, so no bringing back the actress, but I’m guessing the only reason for choosing her in was to throw Ross-Leming and Buckner some extra money. Which, again, really, show? Haven’t you paid them enough for shoddy workmanship? Let it go.

Another problem with the returning characters was that they brought back Donnelly Rhodes as a new character. Now, mind you, my objection is not to Donnelly Rhodes’ returning. Rhodes is a fine actor, a total GILF, and good fun to watch. Nor am I bothered by his returning as a new character. And I’m not upset that said character survived the episode (albeit offscreen), either.

However, his returning as a new character, in the same episode as the death of a character from the same episode (“Wendigo”) in which he last appeared is unnecessarily confusing. Also, his new character is no more prominent or important than the last, though he at least got to be filmed in a brightly lit church rather than a dark cabin, this time. But both characters are just walking Exposition Fairies, in the end. Nobody even stops to think about or mention he might be danger from Abaddon now that she’s in the present and loose. It’s every Person in Peril for him/herself in this one. Good luck, Father Senior Citizen What-A-Waste!

The idea of Dean as a master manipulator and the true adversary to Crowley whom Crowley is trying to harm continues in “Clip Show.” Sam is presented as one of those pawns being moved around the chessboard, like Sarah, not a major player. This, on top of yet more of Sam’s operatic Trialberculosis, and Sam letting Dean do most of the actual work to make the Trials happen, is unfortunate in that it makes Sam look weak, not to mention lazy.

It doesn’t help that Dean is supposed to be supporting Sam not leading him. As such, we don’t get someone from Dean’s past but from Sam’s. It ought to be Sam who is taking the blame and responsibility for inadvertently putting Sarah in the line of fire, due to his association with her (and that the hex bag is in his phone). Instead, the episode blames Dean – and has Crowley blame Dean, too (which is rich and ruins Crowley further as a villain, turning him even more from a villain you love to hate to one you just plain hate).

Not only is this not fair to Dean within the story, but, in terms of the story structure, it blocks him from ever making things right. Since it’s not his job to save Sarah, even if he’d succeeded, he would have failed, because it’s Sam’s job to save her. So, Sam is made weak and incapable of being a Hero, while Dean is put in a no-win situation, which ends up frustrating fans of both characters.

Speaking of frustrating, what is up with the rushed “Angel Tablet Trials” storyline involving Castiel and Metatron. Let’s leave aside for the moment that if the Demon Trials absolutely must go to Sam, any Angel Tablet trials really ought to go to Dean. I say, let’s leave it since these probably aren’t the real thing.

But this leads to the real problem – why is Castiel trusting Metatron? Sure, Dean is angry with him, but Dean has every right to be angry with him – how many times has Castiel lied to, betrayed, beaten up, or tried to kill Dean at this point? If Castiel wants to make amends, maybe he should have done what Dean told him to do and stayed in the bunker to heal. Try saying more than “sorry.” And that’s despite my liking the scene in the store.

Admittedly, Castiel might be a bit starry-eyed, considering Metatron is a legend from before the beginning of time. Except that Castiel has already been down this garden path more than once with older angels, so where’s the learning curve for him? Wouldn’t he at least question why Metatron suddenly pops up in his life?

The entire thing feels rushed, several episodes of plot crammed into less than twenty minutes, on top of the priest storyline being equally rushed. As such, all subtlety and a good part of moral sense go out the window. For example, we’ve been told many times that angels don’t generally have an interest in sex, but then we meet a Nephilim, a product of sexual intercourse between an angel (in a vessel, one assumes) and a human. Okay, fair enough, but how is it that angels like Balthazar who did have sex only managed to produce one Nephilim? That makes no sense, “forbidden” or not.

Further, the Nephilim is an innocent (and, for that matter, so is the vessel of her angel parent, who certainly didn’t consent to having sex). Yet, Dabb first gives her superpowers (He does so love those) and then has her conveniently turn “evil,” all the better to let Castiel off the hook when he murders her. Never mind that she was only defending herself from Castiel and Metatron’s attack on her in the first place! It’s a big hot mess.

In other words, it’s a typical penultimate episode of the season, since those have been not very good, more often than not. It’s rife with Plot Stupid elements, inconsistent writer memory of canon, OOC moments, and situations that don’t make much sense. So, add Andrew Dabb’s chronically poor plotting on top of the usual hot mess of the last-episode-but-one curse and I’m just glad it’s over so I can get on to the much-superior season finale.

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Fun lines:

Sam: So, we have a dungeon.
Dean: Finally.

Dean: Demon on a leash. Cool.

Dean: Well, that was weird – with three exclamation points.

Castiel: Where is the pie?
Clerk: Think we’re out.
Castiel [grabbing him and yanking him over the counter]: You don’t understand – I need pie.
Metatron [flying in behind him]: Put the virgin down, Castiel.

Sam: So, you really think this’ll work?
Dean: Dude, we got needle; we got thread. We’ve seen Young Frankenstein about a thousand times …. Yeah, we’re golden.

Abaddon [to the brothers]: Morning, Sunshines!

Nephilim [to Metatron]: You want an abomination? I’ll give you an abomination!

Sam [to Sarah]: Look, I know this is insane, but insane is kinda what we do.

Next Week: Sacrifice [Season Finale]: The brothers find a demon in an unexpected place and move forward with the Third Trial. Meanwhile, Castiel seeks Dean’s help after Naomi captures Metatron. But all is not what it seems. Shocking, I know.

You can watch (or download) this episode, in standard or HD definition, on Amazon.com.

If you like these reviews, please help continue our site by making a donation, buying one of our fiction issues, or buying one of our books: Fraterfamilias, Historical Lovecraft, Future Lovecraft, and our Gothic horror anthology, Candle in the Attic Window. You can also buy my non-fiction book on medieval Spanish history, Templar Convivencia and my horror novel, The Mighty Quinn.

About Paula R. Stiles

Paula is not at all paranoid about government conspiracies after six years in EMS, two years in Africa for the Peace Corps, a few summers with the Park Service, and ten years studying the Knights Templar. She's seen governments in action. They couldn't cover up a toy picnic table, let alone evidence of alien visitation. Writes about science for fun, history for money, and zombies for the company. You can read her sober-as-a-judge book about Templars in medieval Spain, Templar Convivencia, on Amazon. You can find her homepage at: http://thesnowleopard.net.

Paula R. StilesColumn: Gods and Monsters: Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.22: Clip Show