As this is the last mid season finale for Supernatural the series, I was skeptical when I saw that the duo of Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner had been assigned to script in what is usually a packed episode. This review is not going to give it all away as the episode requires your own time together, but Speight’s direction of using the camera to scan the dead bodies left on a casino’s floor, the rigged slot machine that always wins, and the waitress’s fear as she delivers a fruity drink to Chuck, interprets the script on target. Chuck is as he once described himself, a cruel and capricious Deity. The writers have taken away any level of nebish or adorable that Chuck may have had in season 5, 11. He is the BIG BAD on Earth. There is no attempt to hide it as the title gives it away from the beginning: Our Father who is not….. ( SPOILER- I do reveal who returns but not in detail).
In addition,the director uses clever blocking throughout the episode to represent the emotional relationships between the characters. Sam and Dean are always close. Dean and Castiel are always physically apart. The entrances and exits of characters are dramatically staged as well. Dichotomies do not always share camera frames.
Dean tells Sam he is good if there is a Sam/Eileen future. And although both men realize that domesticity is not there forte, Dean says Eileen could do worse but that Sam can’t do better.(I paraphrase). It is upon leaving, that Dean pats Sam on the shoulder and says,”Happy Sammy” . The physical contact may have been scripted, directorial decision, or improvised, but the closeness is there. The scene happens so quickly that there is no time to process that perhaps this is ominous. Happy and Winchester are not two words that have every worked out for either brother or their romantic choices. In a later scene, Castiel, Sam and Dean are seated but when Sam goes to retrieve a drink, the physical space between Castiel and Dean reminds us that there is distance between them emotionally. And to underscore that rift, the character at whose feet they sit, tells them to “fix it” before it is too late. Regrets. Family. All of it.
At one point Dean and Sam make an entrance that is back lit. They enter through strips of plastic that act as a curtain. A super hero entrance if ever as they appear and the lighting brightens. At another point, the camera takes us from a fight in which Cas, Sam and Dean are fighting demons in Hell and losing. With one off screen voice of Stop and a switch to the character bathed in glowing light and red gown, ROWENA returns with “Hello Boys”. Whether the wardrobe and up grade of the Hell set is scripted or directorial choice, it all works so well in this episode. As if that is not enough, Rowena is further developed as the Queen of Hell. A change up of costume, make up, and feminizing of Hell does not diminish her noble death, but adds dimension. I like the new make up, hair, wardrobe, throne, understanding of self.
Much is to be applauded as the script permits fantastic performances from guest stars. Ruthie Connell brings Rowena to what I feel is a reward for the character who has always wanted power. She fills a void both in Hell and as a strong ally of the Winchesters. Shoshana Stern’s Eileen is strong, independent, smart, compassionate,and convincing as Sam’s possible romantic interest in a way that is acceptable and explains how Sam and she leave to hunt together. However two outstanding actors are Jake Abel as Michael/Adam Winchester and Keith Szarabajka. as the prophet Donatello.
Keith goes in and out of the character of Donatello and Chuck so convincingly that at one point, I thought I heard Rob Benedict’s voice saying Chuck’s warning to stop the pursuit of the plan or Jody, Donna, Eileen and other loves one will all perish. Clearly the director got Keith to play Rob playing Chuck. Speight knows the characters and gets solid work from this veteran player.
Jake plays angel Michael and brother Adam as two distinct beings. At times, the director uses a split screen and other times only one character is seen talking to himself. It leaves the question of whether the time in the cage has actually created an understanding between the two or if Lucifer’s description of a psychotic archangel is true. The writers handle this grey area not as a blatant re-con but as an area of interpretation to be left open for discussion. It is odd that the Winchesters release Michael so quickly but it allows time for Dean to make an apology on his behalf and Sam’s to Adam. In true Winchester fashion, Adam seems to accept the apology. Family. Not sure if this was just a lose end or Adam has a role to play further down the line. Revenge has always been on a Winchester menu. How hard it is for a Winchester to apologize- When is it Castiel’s turn to be smoothed by Dean? Episode 9 after the break.
The scene of Castiel alone, praying to Michael and later during his one on one scene as he implants Chuck’s betrayal of angels and humans into Michael, are emotional but again the director’s camera angles emphasize the solitary existence of Castiel and the pain of the truth about Chuck. Both scenes could have dissolved into corny without proper direction. Dean’s questioning Castiel as perhaps having gone to far brings up the root problem of their rift however, this time Castiel’s action has better results.
And just as we are about to feel good because Michael gives Dean a recipe to imprison Chuck, one of the ingredients is a Leviathan flower. Let’s revisit another greatest hit from the series. Purgatory. And of course, compassionate Eileen is off to help a friend who is hunting vampires. Sam has an understanding with her and so he goes along. OOOOPS!!!! DID NOT see this one coming although the set up is there from the beginning. Writers suckered us into this one. And it hurts so bad.
I told you Chuck is a cruel and capricious deity. Effective twist in the gut. Perfect for a mid season finale. Sets up the second half of the season and probably the finale so well.
So even though this writing team is not my favorite, the script does its job without re con, staying true to the nobility of the characters under the skillful direction of Speight and the strong acting performances.
Okay. One pet peeve. When Sam mentions Chuck has an Achilles’ heal, Dean looks like he doesn’t get the meaning of the reference and retorts with he must have a weak spot. I used to think these writers like to make Dean look stupid with his lack of knowledge of common references. I now think they have Dean make these dumb looks just so Sam can react to his brother. Dean likes to tease Sam. Loved the facial reaction by both brothers. I prefer to think it is Dean teasing Sam just as his off key singing is to annoy Sam. Writers not being cruel and capricious are they? LOL.
Otherwise as a mid season finale- WOWZA! Two weeks in January for episodes, then a 4 week hiatus. Then, dare I say it- the finale.