A Cast of Thousands
by Sylvia Bond
Supernatural Episode Review – Season 5, Episode 19
“Hammer of the Gods”
The dive motel for this week’s ep was called The Elysian Fields Hotel, and is neither a motel nor a dive, but is instead a hotel refurbished by the gods for their one and only meeting about what to do about the apocalypse. Sam and Dean stumble upon the hotel after driving in the Impala in the rain, and soon discover that their one night off is not to be. If they would only stay in a Motel 6 once in a while, they might be able to get a good night’s sleep, because not only is the chain so low end that it will never be used by ancient deities to have a convocation, but they’ll also leave the light on for you.
Elysian Fields is, of course, a not so very subtle reference to the portion of the underworld where the souls of the heroic and the virtuous go to rest. I thought it was rather clever of Show to slip in the reference to a different kind of heaven into which Sam and Dean would surely be welcome, being that they’re heroic and virtuous and all. But since their jobs on earth aren’t done, they can’t get any rest.
There’s even a nod to the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining with the spooky manager (Lloyd), the glowy, underlit counters, the fact that the hotel has slipped into being after long having been deserted, and no one who checks in ever checks out. Not to mention the moment when the elevator doors open to reveal Dean standing there; the angle and the lighting was such that I totally expected a whole boatload of dark blood to come rushing out. There are even real keys, and what place does that anymore?
Why am I going on and on about the hotel, you ask? Because it was the most interesting and spooky thing to happen in the episode. It was practically the star of the show. Otherwise, it was just a bunch of gods standing around, saying their lines, while Sam and Dean are manipulated like pawns on a chessboard. Very pretty pawns, of course, but it never is interesting when the plot is about gods (or other characters) and Sam and Dean are afterthoughts. But, being me, I looked for clever things, even while I was being beaten over the head with the clunky lines and rather stodgy blocking.
I did like that when Sam and Dean enter the hotel, they are dripping with rain. Or maybe it’s only makeup, so they only look like they’re dripping with rain, but it makes sense, because it’s raining on account of the storm of biblical proportions that has taken over the tri-state area.
And I did like that Dean notices that Sam was uptight, and encourages him to unpucker and try to relax for once. And best of all, that Dean reiterated that he still was keeping the faith and wasn’t giving up. (He does this with some marvelous eye contact, making sure that Sam understands exactly what he’s saying.) Dean thinks they have earned the right to eat all the pie they can manage. As for Sam, he urges that they go back on the road. He’s reverted back to being the sensible one, the way he was in Season One, only this time around, his caution is tempered with experience, so what used to come across as sulky complaining, now comes across as good advice. Which neither one of them follows, leaving them stuck in the hotel.
The boys go to their room. A hotel in the middle of nowhere shouldn’t have luxurious bed linens, nor chocolate on the pillows, but this one does. (Which should have been their first clue to get the heck out!) And I think Dean is playing up the little kid aspect of his nature in order to entertain and distract Sam, allowing Sam his slightly disapproving governess role. It makes them feel comfortable and safe, thus ignoring all the warning signs appearing around them.
All too soon, the brotherliness of the brothers is interrupted by strange happenings that indicate that all is not right at the hotel. Noises and thumping start coming from the room next door, and then suddenly, the bricks in the wall start collapsing. When the boys go to investigate, they find the room empty, though there is no evidence of the bricks having collapsed inside of the other room, a fact which continued to bother me for the rest of the ep. Talk about distracting, only not in a good way.
Anyway, they find a wedding ring on the floor. I immediately harkened back to the ep “Hunted” where Sam and Dean find Ava’s dead fiancé on the bed, and Ava’s ring on the floor. My mind floated off as to how much I’d enjoyed Ava’s character (before her untimely death), and how symbolic rings were, and really, how much this scene matched that one. Was it on purpose to reemphasize the idea of rings? Or was it just that Show ran out of camera angles?
The brothers separate, with Sam to follow the manager guy, and Dean to check out the rest of the hotel. That’s when the elevator music started getting to me, not to mention the brothers separate, did I mention that before? Although yes, I did get a few seconds of Samhair, and Dean striding the halls in his boots, using the EMF that he made from a busted walkman. When was the last time we saw that, I ask you? A long time, I’d say, so it seems this ep has a lot of things going back to the old days, when things were much simpler. And why is that important? Maybe to demonstrate that the brothers have to pull on what they know works to get the job done.
Then the gods start appearing, the first one in a cute scene where Dean thinks he sees an elephant in a room, only to find it’s a man trying to wrap a towel around himself after (or before) a shower. It’s Dean’s double take that makes it cute, though why on earth a man is standing there with the door open whilst in the state of nature is beyond me. Typically people close their doors before disrobing. It’s funny, but it doesn’t make any sense. Then there are more gods who talk about getting blood and making sure the guests have arrived, and I’m like, here we go, here’s our cast of thousands.
Sam and Dean investigate the hotel’s kitchen, which is perhaps another nod to the scene in the Kubrick movie where Danny hides out amongst the metallic pots and pans while his dad hunts for him. The boys don’t hide, of course, it isn’t that kind of story, nor are the brothers those kinds of characters. (Not to mention that The Dad is, sadly, still dead and isn’t able to chase anyone.) Dean discovers a pot of something red boiling on the stove, and as he scoops it up, he prays out loud: “Please be tomato soup, please be tomato soup.” Which harkens back to the ep “Family Remains”, when Dean was lowering himself into the black depths of the house, and begged, “Please don’t grab my leg, please don’t grab my leg.” Lots of borrowed stuff here, but at least this is in keeping with Dean’s character, though I’m not sure if he’s performing sympathetic magic or announcing the moment, because he knows full and well it’s not tomato soup. And yep, it’s blood soup with eyeballs!
When the boys attempt to let the people out of the freezer, Sam turns around and stops. Dean says, “There’s somebody behind me, isn’t there.” Which is a rather funny line, but very much used in the movies these days. Should I blame Show for borrowing what works? Or should I call Show out for continuing to be less than original?
Soon the boys are hustled into the Grand Ballroom, where the gods have assembled. These are the names of the ones I caught: Ganesh, Odin, Kali the Destroyer, Baron Samedi, Zao-Shen, Baldur, and Mercury. Being an arrogant westerner, I only recognize a few of these names, so I had to look them up. So tell me, why do the Hindu and Norse religions get two gods each, but the rest of the religions have only one representative?
And why does Zao-Shen speak in his own language and gets subtitles, when everyone else is speaking English? It makes no sense; either have them all speak English, or let them speak in their own language. And this isn’t me arrogantly assuming that the characters should speak English, this being an English speaking show and stuff. More, it’s that it would have been much funnier to have all the gods talking in their own language and yet understanding what the other gods are saying, while the close captioning flickers across the bottom of the screen like lightning. (And would have been in keeping with whole god thing.) The way Show did it, it was merely half funny with tons of untapped potential.
But I did like Mercury coming out and saying “Dinner is served” whilst doffing the lid from a chafing dish, inside of which is a dismembered head and severed body parts. It was a nice shout out to Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Actually, Magenta says, “Dinner is prepared!” but the sentiment is still the same.) When Baldur starts his welcome speech, Sam mutters to Dean, “We are so screwed.” Okay, so, enough with the clichéd lines already. I can see the way the dialog is going at twelve minutes and 59 seconds. “Rats in a maze” in the first reel was just the start of it.
So apparently the Judeo-Christian apocalypse looms and the gods are getting together to figure out what to do about it. Sam and Dean appear pretty passive (pun intended). Maybe they’re taking notes, or maybe they’re just doing what the script tells them, but they’re certainly not participating in their own story. Regardless, the scene is just a whole lot of sitting (or standing) around and talking. When the gods get to fussing at each other, Sam and Dean try to sneak out. Only they’re stopped by a falling chandelier, a la Phantom of the Opera. Well, if you’re going to borrow other people’s stuff, borrow it good, though why the gods couldn’t have just stopped them with a word or a twitch, I surely don’t know.
Then Kali stands up. She’s the chick in the red with the creamy dark skin and the very beautiful face. (Does she appropriately represent the goddess from the Hindu religion? Do any of them? You’ll have to ask someone whose religion that is.) Anyway, she starts her speech, and even though it’s supposedly a safe room, when Mercury demurs and suggests talking as a first attempt, she makes him bleed from the mouth. Some safe room. But it clearly suggests that each god acts under his or her own set of rules and hang what the other fellows need. Apparently, if you’re a god who is not worshipped anymore (and my apologies if there is anyone out there who still worships Mercury, because you’re just not in the census), then you really don’t have a say. But then, religions aren’t democracies to being with.
In walks Gabriel (aka Loki; although the jury is still out as to whether he’s always been both, or whether he had stuffed Loki in a holy closet somewhere and is just parading around as Loki.) Regardless, I like Richard Speight Jr. because he can make his lines sing even when they’re puerile in an episode that seems to lack the Aristotelian Unities. Plus, when his character goes up against (or with) Sam and Dean, he’s always able to hold his own, never limping to catch up, but sparkling right along with them.
Gabriel sends the boys out of the Grand Ballroom to their hotel room. And it pains me to say that in this scene, they look like they didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. And I don’t mean the boys, I mean the actors. They stand there, arms hanging any old which way, saying rather clunky lines like, “Next time I say let’s keep driving….let’s keep driving.” Which is a typical example of a cute line from a horror film that’s supposed to be funny, and in which the characters run around screaming, whilst being in no danger whatsoever. I like it when, like last week, the comedy spills in to alleviate the darkness of the plot, but the plot wasn’t that dark this week, so the funny just fell flat. The actors are blameless; I blame the script.
Thankfully, Gabriel enters the scene again. Although, to be honest, he’s got a handful of borrowed and/or clunky lines himself, like the boys being “uber boned,” or how Mike and Lucky are going to “dance the lambada,” and how “Lucifer is going to turn them into finger paint,” and “let’s get going while the going’s good.” I could keep going, you get the idea. And, hey, I’m all for zingers and bon mots, but the script is riddled with the faux cockiness that lines like these impart; and I’m here to tell you that if there are too many of them, they get old very fast. You have to save the lines for when they will have the most effect, capisci? For example, Bruce Willis says the very cool “yippee ki-yay” line in each Die Hard movie, but he only says it once, no matter how much public opinion has made that line popular. That’s called restraint, boys and girls.
A quick sex scene ensues where Gabe has (or attempts to have) sex with Kali to distract her while Sam and Dean wander around the hotel looking for trouble. And they find it in the kitchen as they attempt to rescue the collection of human sacrifices. Cue Sam whumpage and the Tossing of the Dean amidst the clatter of pots and pans. Dean is able to kill Zao-Shen with something apparently blessed enough to take on the task, which seems odd, because it would seem to me that gods are immortal enough to resist most any kind of attack from humans. (Or perhaps this can be ascribed to the internal logic of Show, which sometimes escapes me.)
As the plan fails, Show oddly presents a quick montage of The Ghostfacers, who are apparently still posting on their website. The clips are cute, and we see that the gang has gotten a blond bimbo on their staff. She’s so stupid she needs to have it explained to her how a camera works: “You see my face? See the little box? My face has gotta be right in your box.” (And yes, I see the double meaning here, I do, I’m just choosing to ignore it.) I love the ghostfacer gang, and yes, that’s a big change from how I felt when I first saw them. But what confuses me is why the clip is there. It doesn’t forward the plot as far as I can tell, but only acts as a self-serving filler that demeans the earnest and impassioned efforts of the ghostfacers.
Back to the Grand Ballroom for more standing around and talking. Sam and Dean are manipulated roughly into their seats, which is all the pleasure this scene affords me. The gods talk, fling out more zingers, and struggle to be the dominant religion in the room.
Kali, aka The Destroyer, has some of the most interesting dialog in the ep. I’ll give it to you in full here: “Westerners, I swear, the sheer arrogance. You think you’re the only ones on earth? You pillage and you butcher in your god’s name, but you’re not the only religion, and he’s not the only god. And now you think you can rip the planet apart? You’re wrong. There are billions of us, and we were here first. If anyone gets to end this world, it’s me.”
So how is what she’s defending her right to do any better or worse than what the current Judeo-Christian apocalypse is bringing about? Just because there are billions of them and they were here first, does that make her right? (I assume by “them” she means followers of the Hindu religion, not that there are thousands of Hindu gods. Though, being an ignorant westerner, there just might be a thousand Hindu gods.) I think it’s sheer arrogance on her part to assume that the quantity of followers and the age of her guidelines make it okay for her to rip the world apart.
In fact, it’s not a valid argument for any religion, because being the biggest and oldest religion in the world doesn’t give you the right to do as you please, though often huge and ancient religions think that it does. Don’t believe me? Just go and ask the hundreds of thousands of little boys and girls who have been in the Catholic church’s less-than-tender care all over the world. For decades, if not centuries, pedophiles and monsters cloaked as priests and nuns have been doing exactly what they pleased to these kids and getting away with it, and all because the Catholic church has the hubris to think that it’s old enough and big enough to forever do what it wants.
Well, it can’t, because the walls are already a’tumblin’ down. An Illinois man has sued the pope and the Vatican over the abuse he suffered at a priest’s hands, and I expect more lawsuits like this to follow. (I also sense that the Priory of Scion will soon be At My Door. Should I be scared? Nope. I think the barn door has already been closed on that one.)
At its core, religion is man’s attempt to try and approximate God, but being a human endeavor, is therefore flawed from the onset. Religions, all religions, have double standards that make everything an “us against them” standoff, which, as you know, often develops into a no-win scenario that leaves a path of destruction behind it. (Some people, like Captain Kirk, don’t believe in no-win scenarios, but that’s a story for another time.)
But is that the point Show is actually making? Or is it just me reading very heavily into it? (I’ve been watching the news thread, you see, about the current pope who, while he was a cardinal in charge of the office to which abuse accusations were referred, and when asked if it was okay for a certain priest to stay a priest even after he’d been accused of molesting over 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin, selected the “yes” check box instead of the “no” check box.) So, I think it’s the latter, because while can Show knock it out of the park so hard that the ball goes to another galaxy, sometimes, like this time around, it barely makes it out of the batting cage. Though, being a diehard Samgirl, and a lover of all things Sam and Dean, I continue to look for the clever and the pretty and give a nod to Show for at least trying.
Kali kills Gabe, though it’s a double blind, because Gabe typically does not send his real self into the ring. Dean stands up and starts flinging hard words at the gods, and offers to help them “ice” the devil. He also offers to help them find Lucky, who is “not in the yellow pages.” (The more I hear these clichéd lines, the more I admire Ackles and Padalecki for pulling them off, because, really, 99% of the time, they do.)
Sam and Dean are allowed to free the humans from the freezer, and Dean runs into Gabe in the parking lot. (See? I told you he was still alive!) Gabe is a lucky boy because he gets to sit in the back of the Impala. In the rain. He’s got more clichés about his current plan of getting the blood and setting them free from the gods. Dean (who’s got clunky lines like “it takes one to know one”) wants to stay and gank the gods and then do what they’re supposed to do, which is stop Lucky and Mike. Inside the hotel, Sam fumbles with dealing with the gods on his own, which is atypical of him; usually he can make a conversation with just about anybody.
And lo, the episode is saved by the arrival of Lucky, played by Mark Pellegrino. I like that Show, for its part, didn’t dress Lucky in a coat and tie, no, instead, he’s in a Winchester-esque outfit, replete with stains and sags. Plus, Pellegrino seems to get that just because you’re Lucifer, it doesn’t mean that you have to strut around acting like the cock-of-the-walk; just playing Lucifer is enough to be creepy. His face, riddled with sores and burn marks, was an added bonus that subtly makes the point that Lucky doesn’t have much time before he must find another meatsuit.
Lucky kills Mercury, and the killing continues on from there. Soon, there’s enough blood on the walls to make it an abattoir. And here’s a question: once a god is dead, do they stay dead? Will the Hindus and everyone else now be without their gods? It’s brazen of Show to kill all these deities, so I have to assume that the gods will be resurrected in the end. (Also, huge props to the blood spatter on Lucky’s face, or is it just me who sees the outline of horns on his forehead? Nice touch, Show.)
Lucky finds his way to the Grand Ballroom, and the killing goes on. It’s bloody and messy as Lucky announces that “no one gives us the right; we take it,” which is yet another in the list of why organized religions tend to be destructive, rather than constructive. And it brings home the point: that no one religion is given the right by any divine being, they simply take what they want to take and leave scattered bones behind, all in the name of their own interests and population control. (Have I gone too far? Shall I get off the anti-organized religion soapbox now? Okay, can do.)
There’s a fiery god battle, and Gabe enters the ring to try and do the right thing. (“Lucy, I’m home….” Please, enough with the clichés!) Sam and Dean exit stage left, rescuing Kali as they go. Except, isn’t Kali a powerful goddess, and can’t she save herself? No, I guess not, because she’s female and all, she needs rescuing. Oddly, none of the male gods needed rescuing, although, at this point, all the male gods are dead so I guess it’s a moot point. (And really, how do you rescue a goddess? Drop her off at the nearest Greyhound station? The boys must have done something with her, because we never see her again.)
A sibling fight ensues, as Gabe taunts Lucky about being their dad’s favorite, and how Lucky couldn’t hack it when dad brought “the new baby” home. In short, he boils Lucky’s problems down to having a temper tantrum about not being loved enough. (Which, oddly, makes it rather easy to relate to Lucky.) Gabe suddenly expresses his altruism, and gives the predictable patter about how humans are so wonderful and deserve to go on living. We are better than angels, apparently, because not only do we have the capacity to forgive, we invented the Spearmint Rhino.
I think the juxtaposition of being able to forgive each other our trespasses and inventing an upscale chain of gentlemen’s clubs was supposed to be clever. Instead, it was jarring, because being the gentle, sweet, innocent soul that I am, I had to stop and look it up. (Clever referent was too clever for this fan.) However, I liked the scene, except that Lucky kills Gabe, and Show looses one of my favorite characters. Gabe/Loki, we hardly knew ye; rest in peace, and may your heaven be as entertaining and fun for you as a Spearmint Rhino.
Show has a clip of Casa Erotica 13, which the boys are watching in lieu of meeting up with Gabe again. (Strangely, they watch it out of doors, next to a greenhouse. I am still struggling with the gap between wondering why they are standing next to the Impala in the middle of nowhere, and applauding Show for giving me the boys in natural light.) Sam is (or pretends) to be disgusted by the clip, which Dean (amusingly) seems to know by heart. I liked bit where Gabe (disguised as a waiter) comes in with a steaming, hot kielbasa. The scantily dressed miss on the bed asks if it’s Polish, and though Gabe announces that it’s Hungarian, I enjoyed the shout out to fans of all things Polish everywhere. While the whole thing was funny, it felt like the ghostfacer’s clip, because it took up time that could have been used for something else.
Anyway, Gabe says his goodbyes in the clip and then hands the boys their next clue in the search for a way to defeat Lucky. Apparently, you can gather the rings of the Four Horseman, and they will help you lock Lucky back up in hell. This came as no surprise to me, since there have been eps that were heavily geared toward the boys collecting these very items. What I didn’t like was Gabe having to tell them because not only is he dead, we had to sit through an ep that was mostly gods and goddesses standing around and talking. I would rather have Sam and Dean doing their own research and finding out for themselves. And yes, I know, I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Sam and Dean seem like useless characters when they get pieces of the puzzle handed to them like they do in this ep.
Sam and Dean set off, and the plot slithers over to introduce Pestilence, played by the very able Matt Frewer, and seriously, is there any role this actor can’t play? He’s versatile and fabulous, but the scene where he’s spewing snot all over everything goes on a little too long, and the boys were no where to be seen. To cheer myself up, I went and looked up the title of the ep to see if it meant anything. (And I’ll admit, I looked up a lot of things about the ep.)
To my surprise, “Hammer of the Gods” has many references, the most significant of which is that it’s the name of the biography written by Stephen Davis about Led Zeppelin, which is one of Dean’s favorite bands. The book title, in turn, comes from a Led Zeppelin tune called “Immigrant Song”, and that’s fine, because I’m sure Dean knows the lyrics by heart, just as surely as he knows Casa Erotica 13. And while it might be very minor indeed, with an ep that felt as clunky and unfocused as this one, I have to find pleasure in Dean’s pleasure, because I have to get my pleasures where I can.
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.
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