Hello again, guys. I’m back, and I brought my opinionation with me, look.
- All Hell Breaks Loose
I’m cheating here by counting both parts as one episode, but there’s no way I can’t include the death scene at the end of part one, in all its terrible poignancy. Jensen Ackles’ monologue, as Dean sits by Sam’s body, bypasses touching and goes straight to heartcrack- I think it remains some of the best work of his career. I was in tears basically throughout. Another great moment is when Jake is shot and falls, revealing Sam standing behind him, swaying a little, an ugly look on his face. It’s one of my favourite Kim Manners closeups.
But the moment that truly haunted me was when Dean clutched the newly-resurrected Sam into his arms, and the look on his face; that of someone who’d gone too far and seen too much.
This may seem a strange choice to some of you guys, but this episode is one that speaks to me personally. There’s an otherworldliness to it that sets it apart from any other episode; in that labyrinthine hotel Sam and Dean are annexed off from their usual masculine world, and it does strange things to them. Dean finds Sam drunk and puts him to bed, as Sam makes Dean promise to kill him if he ‘turns’; it’s a strangely intimate scene, but with a throb of desperation beneath it.
The episode was also a homage to The Shining, with some shots that were exact replicas, like the one of the key in the door reading 237. But the whole thing seems to take place in a dreamy bubble of its own. I’ve written more on Playthings here.
3.In My Time Of Dying
Such a beautiful, beautiful episode. Directed by Kim Manners, who used sweeping camera moves to switch from Dean’s POV to Sam’s, where Dean wasn’t visible. Lindsey McKeon made her first appearence as the reaper Tessa, and her performance was, I think, spot on- she treated the role with the seriousness it required, unwavering yet not unkind. And of course this was Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s last appearence on the show. The fascination of John Winchester is that we never quite know to what level he’s manipulating a situation; he gives a speech to Dean about how when he came home from a hunt Dean would comfort him, and the praise shows on Dean’s face like a revelation. Immediately after, he’s telling Dean to ‘Save Sam or kill him’.
I think my favourite scene here was the one where Sam and Dean spoke to each other via the ouija board- there was a hopefulness to it, as both of them tentatively began to wonder if this could be okay after all.
4.What Is And What Should Never Be
Dean-centric and unutterably sad. JA is wonderful here, as Dean forces himself to push away what he wanted more than anything. It’s directed by Kripke, actually, who I think did a great job- the commentary track is hilarious, he takes the piss out of their own tendency to end scenes with tormented Winchester profiles- and his style was clearly influenced by Manners’. Such lovely nuances of acting here, like the way Dean leans into Mary’s embrace as if he doesn’t want her to let him go, and how he looks up at her like a little kid.
I also love the warehouse set, with the typewriter, and the djinn’s tattoos are fantastic. Plus, Sam. In a jogging suit. Being prissy. Wow.
Heart goes from incredibly hot to incredibly sad in what seems like seconds. It was the first episode to make me actually cry.
Throughout, the camera is up in the characters’ faces, particularly Sam’s; it made me uncomfortable. I felt like I was invading something private. The only privacy the characters do get is at the end, when we don’t see what happens but hear the gunshot; it’s as if even the cameras don’t dare go near what’s taking place.
Every actor concerned is marvellous here. Dean’s tiny flinch at the end when he hears the gun; Madison smiling up at Sam, tears running down her face- but I can’t help but applaud JP. His transition- from an absolute beast in bed with Madison, to a scared kid with tears streaking his cheeks- is both sudden and absolutely smooth. These are completely different facets of Sam Winchester’s character, but JP treats both with equal importance.
‘Dean, always with the scissors.’
Tall Tales. It killed me not to include this in the top five. The whole thing revels in silliness like a pig in mud. Personally, I lost it at ‘Blah blah blah blah blah’.
The Usual Suspects, which I LOVE. Sam and Dean are in sync- and sassy as hell, incidentally- throughout, to the disgust of the police force. Detective Ballard has to be one of my favourite one-off characters.
Nightshifter, which contains an incredibly badass escape sequence to Styx’s Renegade. And Ronald, who only appears twice and yet seems to matter so much.
Croatoan because of that scene. You know the one.
Bloodlust and Hunted because Sterling K. Brown as Gordon is flawless, as is the wonderful Katharine Isabelle as Ava. I saw her on Hannibal recently and her whole manner was different, the tone of her voice, everything; she seems entirely at home in both parts.
Folsom Prison Blues. ‘Don’t worry, Sammy, I won’t trade you for smokes.’
Houses Of The Holy, which I’ve really come to like. More Kim Manners closeups; it’s a gentle episode, disillusioning and sad.
Everybody Loves A Clown; I can’t get enough of the exposed, sun-bleached look of it. Sam and Dean look so pale and vulnerable.
And finally, Born Under A Bad Sign, which I hereby award the Wrencollins Certificate Of General Disturbingness. The fuzzy CCTV video of possessed Sam slitting Wendell’s throat is one of SPN’s more unsettling deaths, I think; it felt so authentic, in the middle of an episode about demon possession. And kudos to JP- when he let Meg show through his intonation changed, becoming like Nicki Aycox’s. His body language changed. Everything. And I love the fact that Bobby is such a paranoid old git.
So, now you guys have to do your bit. Agree, disagree, I’m not picky. But for God’s sake, tell me what you think.
Oh, and as a bonus question, what do you think Season Two’s weakest episode is? Honestly I don’t think there’s a single bad nut in there, but if I really had to pick I’d probably say No Exit. It’s such a great season that the decision is really tough.
Also, a disclaimer: I know I talk about cinematography a lot, but don’t take my word as a professional opinion or anything- I’m barely sixteen and have never studied it. This is all interpretational.
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