Shootout at the Not So Okay O.K.Corral
by Sylvia Bond
Supernatural Episode Review – Season Four, Episode 2
“Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester”
This ep opens with a scene that I found to be both gratifying and annoying. Gratifying because the second the female hunter sees her own frozen breath, she is UP and AT it, getting her weapons, pouring salt, getting ready. Right away we are given not a weak female, no, but a strong one, ready to fight the good fight. But then it was annoying because, yet again, Show seems determined to believe that women sleep in skin tight and skimpy garments like this lady wears. I am a woman and I know no women who dress like this to sleep, even ones who willingly watch The Three Stooges. We wear old t-shirts and sweat pants that don’t show chocolate ice cream stains, or frumpy, comfortable nightgowns. Most nights. Okay, sure, if there’s a man in the picture, we’ll dress it up a bit, but this lady is sleeping alone. Plus, she’s a hunter, surely she knows better than to sleep in an outfit that would leave her vulnerable if she had to fight or take a trek outside. Bare legs and arms are not conducive to fighting off the MOW.
Contrasted to this, naturally, is the fact that ALL the other hunters, regardless of the time of day they confront the ghosts of their own hunting pasts, are FULLY dressed, head-to-toe covered. Some even wear hats. (Okay, we only see one dead hunter but I think I can safely presume here.) Oh, Show. Do some research on this subject, will you? Tight t-shirts on female characters don’t actually make the story better, you know. They just provide eye candy that the majority of your viewers don’t care about. (And was it just me or did all of the hunters seem to have a fixed address? Are our boys the only hunters without one?)
Next, there’s a kitchen dither complete with old pizza, raised voices, and broad hand gestures, horray! The boys discuss Dean’s encounter with the soap angel, and while I enjoyed it very much, I thought that the scene had too much Bobby, that Show was padding the script with Bobby-ness. While Sam and Dean are talking, excuse me, dithering, there’s like five reaction shots to Bobby that seemed very unnecessary and that I felt took away from the intensity of the conversation. And why are the boys even AT Bobby’s house instead of holed up in a motel somewhere so they could reconnect as brothers? Oh wait, I forgot, Bobby does all of their research for them these days.
After Bobby hands the boys books to read, Sam goes out to get Dean some pie to research with. He meets Ruby, and while she comes across as weak and ineffectual, Sam is beautiful in the sunlight. He stands there with his hands on his hips, which he can do any time he wants to, as long as I get to watch. They discuss angels and how Ruby is terrified of them. Sam says, “I’m not afraid of angels.” To which I want to reply, in my best Yoda voice, “You WILL be,” because I’ve have a feeling, considering Sam’s past activities, that he and the soap angel aren’t exactly going to see eye to eye.
As Sam arrives back at Bobby’s, there’s a clip of Bobby and Dean loading Bobby’s car, and for a painful second, I thought the two of THEM were going to drive off together, at which point I was going to be completely irritated at the overabundance of Bobby and Dean combo scenes thus far this season. Luckily, Show kept its wits about it and put Sam and Dean in the Impala, where they should rightfully be, so Dean could complain to Sam about the fact that Sam forgot the pie. (Pie seems to be a problem this season; I wonder if it’s a metaphor for anything. It’s a terribly fun running joke, if nothing else.) Everyone drives to the female hunter’s house (she’s dead and stuff), and Bobby is once again in the foreground of the scene while Dean aims his shotgun at the closet and Sam aims his at the floor. I don’t know what’s up with this, but I just wanted to shove Bobby out of the way and tell him to get a MOVE ON because he’s spoiling my view.
Anyway, there’s more dead hunters, one of which we get to see Dean and Sam discover all by themselves. I get several nice eyefuls of an exploded chest with viscera hanging out and ribs poking up like the poor guy had been turned inside out. There’s blood splattered everywhere, the floor is littered with bullets, and the hunter is sockfooted, like he would be had he gotten caught at home unawares. The hunter’s name was Jed, right? So Bobby calls, and the boys tell Bobby the news, and I wanted them to say, “Jed’s dead, Bobby,” so I could laugh myself sick, but they did not. Alas.
On the way back to Bobby’s house, Sam stops for gas and I love this scene for a lot of reasons. First, the Impala pulls in, and it’s Sam driving while Dean sleeps with his head leaning on the open window of the passenger door. Just. Awwwwwwwww. Sam, taking good care of older bro like he should be, gets out and fills the Impala with gas very quietly so he doesn’t wake Dean. Second, the old gas station is perfect. It’s a backroads, non-chain kind of place, just the sort of one-man-owner type of establishment the boys would frequent. And the bathroom, yeah, grotty like it should be, with Sam washing up, like he does, and you can just smell the mold and the old soap and even the urinal cake that’s long since melted away. Show’s Set Dressers deserver a huge GOLD STAR for this; it’s perfect in every way.
Up jumps Hendrickson and he makes a mighty fine ghost; the actor gives him a calm demeanor that’s barely a veneer over the furious anger. Sam feels guilty, and all is well in my world; the angst on his face makes him look so young and vulnerable, it’s perfect! (There’s a ton of flashback scenes of Hendrickson, which we already got in the teaser. I get the feeling Show’s padding a bit with used footage, perhaps for budgetary reasons. If casual viewers don’t understand the significance of this character without the additional flashbacks, then too bad for them! They either need to catch up or they’ll get left behind. Leave them, I say, leave them!)
Hendrickson provides me with the Tossing of the Sam and there is, really, nothing I like better than to see the boy get a bit of abuse because he takes is so beautifully. I think the reason I enjoy it so much is that I feel that each and every time it happens to him, Sam is completely shocked, SHOCKED that he’s being beaten up yet again. It’s almost as if he still believes somehow that the world is a good and gentle place, and is completely unaware that the Universe is out to get him and slam him against a sink (or a wall) at every available opportunity. I consider this sense of surprise and indignation and disbelief to be one of the last bastions of Sam’s innocence, so I’m always up for a demonstration.
And, to top it off, it’s DEAN to the rescue, shooting through the ghost to save little brother. The only thing the scene was missing was brotherly touching as Dean helps Sam to his feet. I was ROBBED! But I am appeased by the heated discussion about Sam’s mental state in the car as they boys continue on, plus Sam’s got a nicely done wound on his intelligent forehead, so thumbs up to the Makeup People.
Bobby, all this time, has had a very long scene in which he is confronted by his own ghosts of huntings past. This involves the ghostly Bobbsey Twins, two snarly-haired little girls dressed in powder-blue party dresses gone grey in the grave. He’s all freaked out, but really, the scene where he’s dealing with them? Yeah, it went on TOO long for me, like, on and on and on. I’m not kidding. I like that Bobby has angst, hell, angst is my favorite flavor, and I like Bobby, too, but not this much. In addition, the camera just sort of sits there and looks and Bobby looks and the little girls look, and yeah (yawn), what’s in the fridge? I think this particular bit of screen time could have been better spent on other things. Like, yeah, more ghosts for Sam and Dean.
Back at Bobby’s, the boys find no Bobby, which must be some kind of miracle because by this time I’m really tired of him, his house, not to mention his hat. The boys go looking for him; Dean goes upstairs (using his best commando hand gestures) while Sam goes outside to look. (There are not enough close-ups of Sam in the sunlight, I’m thinking.) Eventually, we see that Bobby has been trapped by the ghost twins at the top of a tower of cars, but I guess ghosts have lots of powers. There they hold him for a looooooooooong time, tormenting him instead of killing him right away, which seems strange given the speed at which the female hunter in the opening scene was killed. Why don’t they off him already? Big sigh. (I did not have this reaction to Bobby last season, I assure you.)
Sam saves Bobby. (Hmmm, is that chocolate cake I see in there behind the milk?) Sam gets thrown against a car window, but I’m not mollified because it’s still too much Bobby and not enough Sam. I’m not going to say I geeked out and timed it, but it did seem clear to me that Bobby’s ghostly encounters (if you added up all his scenes) were far longer than Sam’s (which I’ll get to in a minute). Why is that? Isn’t Sam, like, a more important, central, and significant character than Bobby? What is Show playing at? Not happy here, Show.
Dean, meanwhile, is upstairs, where he’s confronted by the ghost of Meg (the marvelous Meg from Season 2, and it’s one of my favorite scenes. Meg’s all dirty and frumpy looking, hair falling in an artful disarray to her shoulders (she’s still beautiful and compelling to look at), and she starts ragging on Dean about how he treated her. The creepiest bit was where she gestured to her head and described how it was to be trapped by a demon in her own brain, and how if Dean had said 50 Latin words only a little bit sooner, she’d still be alive. As would her baby sister, who apparently committed suicide. Meg’s tale is sad and delivered with oomph and snarl and I was convinced all over again at the power of this actress.
Dean, as he’s kicked in the ribs and the head (OUCH!), is not having as much fun as I was watching this scene. Meg’s pouring on the guilt, and the once empathy-free Dean is crawling both literally and figuratively. When Meg brings up the fact that Dean and Sam allowed her to remain possessed until they could get what information they needed from her, you watch Dean’s face. He’s not just sorry, he’s grief-stricken and regrets all of it. I especially like it when he says, “We did the best we could,” right before she smacks him to the ground. Dean’s gone to hell and come back, you see, and now he’s got all these feeeeeeeeeeeeeelings. It’s marvelous.
This is the kind of emotional and character-driven scene that I’ve come to expect from Show. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and when I do, it’s to see something like this, where the characters feel something, where their current dilemma is because of their past actions, where there are repercussions and ramifications and sometimes stuff they did for the best of reasons comes back to bite them in the butt. THIS kind of scene is why I love Show. (Plus Dean saves himself by cleverly shooting the iron lighting fixture from the ceiling so that it falls on Meg; he’s got some mad skills, eh?)
After everyone assembles in the living room, safe and sound, there’s a dither while Dean works on his guns and talks about the mark he saw on Meg’s hand. They discuss the mark, Sam draws it, and, naturally, Bobby looks it up. Thus comes the break in the gig: someone is raising ghosts from the past who are coming back to haunt hunters who weren’t quite able to save them. While Bobby talks about what it means, I go to check out the cupboards to see if there’s any microwavable popcorn in there.
There’s trouble abrewin’ so everyone ends up in Bobby’s panic room. Bobby’s house is huge, right, and so is his basement, so this panic room, a round room lined with salt-coated iron panels, is huge too. It’s stocked, one presumes, for the end of the world, or maybe just a really bad day, however there is only one bed, cause, apparently, like, Bobby isn’t going to be willing to let anyone else in there. (My other opinion on the panic room – which we will no doubt never see again on Show – is that The Dad never needed one. I’m just saying.) There, the boys hang out while Bobby does all the research. AGAIN. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it as many times as it needs saying. Bobby is one huge CRUTCH at this point, and soon, if it keeps up, the boys won’t be able to do a thing for themselves. Colorful characters like Bobby should be an added flavor. Like salt. Too much salt can ruin a meal faster than you can spit, and I’d say that’s what’s happening here.
Although, for some reason, when Bobby says, “I had a free weekend,” to explain his building the panic room, I feel more happy with Bobby’s character. Once they’re all down there, yeah, it makes sense for him to be in charge, plus his lines don’t sound so clunky. They sound natural and unforced, like he’s not trying to put on a show, he’s just being Bobby. (Or maybe the writers at this point didn’t feel so much need to make Bobby colorful and eccentric by having him say things like “hot seat” and “money in Vegas.” Bobby is colorful enough just standing there, no need to force the issue upon us, Show.)
Although, when Bobby starts talks about the raising of the witness, and the spell that’s needed to send them back to sleep, I find I still resent that Bobby is doing all the work while the boys sit around with their thumbs up there you-know-wheres. Sometimes they stand there staring with their arms akimbo, but it amounts to basically the same thing.
While Bobby translates the spell that will put all the ghosts back to rest, Dean and Sam make salt bullets. I’ve never seen this done before, so it was cool to watch. I love the little press they use, though it looks like there’s a lots that needs to be done by hand, all that tamping and filling, but Dean’s got it well under control so that he can look at Sam and Bobby while he natters on (seemingly to himself) about God and angels and all that. There’s also an apocalypse discussion. I love it how Dean wants to pack it in and go to the Grand Canyon or the Star Trek Experience. (But heck, if Dean would but realize it, there are over a hundred fanfics where fangirls have already sent Dean and Sam there. Plus, Sam has his hands on his hips again, yippee!)
The boys buy into what Bobby says needs to be done, cause, like, this is the Bobby Singer show for some reason, so they all tromp upstairs. Along the way, they meet Ronald Reznic, there are many flashbacks, and Dean seems almost happy to see him. I like it that he remembers his affection for Ron even though Bobby shoots him a second later. Then, Sam is sent to get the red hex box (luckily to be found on the second floor, cause Sam looks good against stained glass, too!), where Meg, who has been waiting for just such an opportunity, confronts him (I guess she hangs out up there or something).
This is another great scene. Meg’s all snarly and mean and angry again (all done convincingly and terrifically well), but her anger takes a different direction. Sure she’s still pissed off about the brothers leaving her in a possessed state, but guess what? She brings up the fact that Sam willingly allows Ruby to live and does NOT send her back to hell, even while knowing how many bodies the Ruby has burned through just for fun, not to mention the body she’s CURRENTLY possessing.
What’s good here is Sam’s face, framed beautifully by the camera lens and lit by the Lighting Guys who have, apparently, resumed their ardor-filled battle for my affections. Then there’s that Samhair falling artfully against that marvelous bone structure Padalecki has. You can see him, just for a minute, considering what she’s saying and agreeing that it’s true, because, yes, he is allowing Ruby to live. (Why? Because she can save Dean from hell? That was the thing she was bringing to the table before, I can’t imagine what she’s bringing to it now.) It’s then that Meg says, spitting in that way she has, “You’re a MONSTER!” At which point Sam’s face says that yes, it’s true, but NO, she’s not allowed to say that to him. Then he blows her away. Oh, the blackness that is crawling inside Sammy boy, it’s like a delicious feast of angst and emo bubbling away until it boils over. I can’t WAIT.
Here’s an idea. Of all the ghosts that Sam encounters, I thought it would have been interesting to see Madison. Yeah, you remember her. She was the werewolf that Sammy fell in love with and THEN had to shoot through the heart with a silver bullet in one of the most tissue-worthy scenes Show has ever had. Wouldn’t it have been the coolest thing ever to watch Sam have to face THAT guilt? At any rate, Show seems to be ignoring my preferences this time around, so I am left Madison-less.
Downstairs, Dean meets Hendrickson in the kitchen, and, knowing what’s coming, feels guilty as hell. (Ackles plays this scene so well, tempering Dean’s grief with his anger over how things went down.) Hendrickson explains about the 45 minutes of torture that Lilith handed out so that Dean feels even worse. There’s a hand through Dean’s chest, and much suffering. Sam shoots Hendrickson and THEN we get to see brotherly touching as Sam helps Dean to his feet. Finally! (But alas, all too brief.)
Dean and Sam are to cover Bobby while he does the spell, salt lines get laid down, shotguns are loaded, the Bobbsey Twins show up, various ghosts that are shot. Bobby starts chanting, yadda, yadda, yadda, but what’s fun is to watch the shootout. Truly, it was wonderfully loud and full of repeated Ka-POWs of gunblasts and then the click-click of the shells falling to the floor. The shootout at the not-so-okay O.K corral goes on for some time, the most actiony scene in the ep, but very satisfying.
Salt lines are blown away by a mysterious wind so that the boys have to work even harder to protect Bobby in this game of satanic whack-a-ghost. Satisfyingly (and realistically) the boys run out of salt bullets, which means that they have to improvise. Dean uses an iron fire poker, while Sam, amazingly, gets trapped by the old desk-against-the-wall trick. It’s the ghostly twins after Sam, and then Bobby gets grabbed by Meg, for some reason, and Dean does the final toss that sends the ghosts back. As Sam shoves the desk away, manfully, gritted teeth and all, the sad music suggests that Bobby might be dead, but alas, he is not.
Next we see a very sweet scene with Sammy asleep on the couch and Dean asleep on the floor; I love watching the boys sleep because they’re so CUTE like that. However, I’m a little puzzled. Typically, the person who has been hurt or is sick or, say, has recently gotten back from HELL gets the couch. So what’s up with Sam hogging the softness? I can’t think that this is an accident, because surely Show is fully aware of where Dean’s recently been, so I can only assume that Sam was selfish the night before, and Dean let him by saying, “No, no, I’m fine, the floor’s good enough for me.” C’mon, Dean!
And hey, seeing as Bobby’s house has all those rooms upstairs, wouldn’t you think that there’d be an extra bed or two or at least extra blankets and pillows? I can’t believe that ALL the rooms are filled with books, and that Bobby has never had the boys visit and spend the night, which must have happened at least once when the boys were wee. At any rate, Dean wakes up while Sam slumbers on, and lo, the angel of the lord is upon him. It’s the soap angel and he’s come for a chat. They talk about battles and fighting and stuff, and Castiel reveals that Lilith is breaking all the seals (not, apparently, the kind at Sea World) and is wreaking havoc just because she can. The apocalypse is coming. Nice, huh? (I thought Dean was whispering on account of he didn’t want to wake Sam, but rumor has it that Ackles had a very bad sore throat, bordering on laryngitis, so I’m like, man. Talk about soldiering on through a very difficult condition!)
While Dean looks a little ghostly and pale (which seems to be the trend when he talks to angels), Castiel drones on, like angels do, delivering all this doom and gloom. It’s good because he’s not exactly a nice angel, but what rocks OUT here is Dean. He’s all snarky and snarly and talking BACK, and basically threatening to kick the angel’s ass, because he’s Dean, and he’s not only angry at God, he’s has the stones to speak up about it. But Castiel, he’s not just an angel of the Lord, he’s a warrior angel and is, apparently some match for Dean. He brings Dean to heel by threatening him with being sent back to hell, and you know that’s the last thing Dean wants, for all he says he doesn’t remember any of it. I rather adored the way Dean cringes back from this, wide-eyed and not a little freaked, truly afraid in a way that I don’t think we’ve ever seen him. (Ackles did a bang up job with the subtlety of this kind of fear.) Once, Dean was The Dad’s blunt instrument, now I guess he belongs to the angels.
But Castiel, what’s up with him? Yes, the angel got Dean out of hell, and that’s pretty big, but if that’s it? Castiel has done nothing to earn Dean’s respect, nor his abiding loyalty, not at this point, so he’s going to be barking out orders that Dean will be following with only half of his heart, and as every fangirl knows, Dean fights with the whole of it. If the first thing you do to Dean Winchester is threaten him when he shows you some backbone? You’re not going to get very far, Mr. Soap Angel. (But I sense this conflict is going to create some very nice dynamic tension as these two alpha-males battle to see who’s the more dominant one, so that should be fun to watch!)
In the morning, Sam gets up and comes back with a cup of coffee for himself, knocking Dean’s impromptu pillow with his foot. Add that to the fact that he’s brought NO coffee for Dean and you have a fine example of the current state of brotherly love. (Watching Sam primp on the couch was just delish. I love it when he messes his hair like that!) Whilst Dean is nattering on about being confused about being chosen by God, Sam sits on the couch. This entire ep, we’ve gotten very little about the inner workings of Sam’s mind, leaving a rather large gap on my mental landscape. So, me being me, I came up with one thought that Sam must be having at this point, and it is this: “How come you get picked by God when you’re clearly the naught one; I’m the one who believes. Plus, I only got picked by a skanky yellow-eyed demon who’s dead now. It’s not fair!” But Dean doesn’t hear him, and so, with one long, angsty look, the screen fades to black.
Here are some final thoughts about this ep. That there’s supposedly discord between the brothers (on account of them lying to each other and all) is fine, I get it, I do. But even if Sam and Dean are at odds, where is the concern and the comfort? Sam seems to be expressing not a single ounce of anything even remotely resembling the fact that he tore himself apart in Season 3 for a brother he loves very much. Show has them, for the most part, not really talking to each other except about the job at hand. There’s no dynamic tension building between them about what Dean did (which was go to hell for his brother), and what Sam did while Dean was away (which no one but Sam knows for sure). Perhaps Show is building up to some explosive scene, but if it keeps on this way, the fallout between the brothers that most assuredly must come (oh PLEASE let it come!) is going to feel like it came out of left field. The lack of tension might be due to the fact that the brothers are never left ALONE long enough (this means you, Bobby) to have any of the aforementioned conversations. I want to see fights and silent treatments, done the real way that real siblings do it! (Plus I would like to see more splashback from the fact that, while Dean says he doesn’t remember hell, certainly remembers being some hellhound’s chewtoy, and I would love to see him suffering from that. I am whacked, yes, it’s true.)
In addition, it sounds like Show is setting this season up for the brothers to fight not just evil, but to clean up after each seal is broken. I’m thinking that could get somewhat old rather fast, since I’m rather attached to the whole “saving people, hunting things” road trip aspect of it. And I am concerned. Where do you go once you have had God and Lucifer duke it out? At that point, Show will have upped the ante so high that the only direction it can go is down. Show will have gone straight to the end game and what’s the fun in that? Hopefully at some point, Show will deescalate and get some working room and go back to the relationship aspect between the brothers. Because, as any good soap opera can tell you, you can escalate the emotions of your characters FOREVER and never run out of road. This being Show and not a soap opera, there’s that added benefit of the brothers, Sam and Dean (both adorable), and the hottest TV car in the world (check the link), and all of this huge country to criss-cross while fighting the good fight. Hopefully Show will listen to me and future episodes will have stories about issues that are a little closer to home than Show’s version of Ceiling Cat and Basement Cat.
Sylvia Bond is a ten-year technical writing veteran with too many degrees under her belt to count. She lives in Colorado, but does not ski, preferring instead to spend her money and time at the annual Great American Beer Festival, taking road trips across the United States, and reading historical fiction from the comfort of her fluffy green arm chair. She has been involved in fandom since 1993 and been writing fanfic since approximately 1993. What she finds most amazing about fandom (besides the open heartedness of fans and the sheer amount of creativity) is how visible fandom has become. “In my day,” she says, “we had to hide behind P.O. boxes to get fanfic. But nowadays, people wear t-shirts that shout their affiliation and share their shiny toys on the internet.” It’s a wonderful world.