Sam and His Samhair Save the Day
by Sylvia Bond
Supernatural Episode Review – Season 7, Episode 12
“Time After Time”
Was there ever a felicity as wonderful as Dean Winchester (aka Jensen Ackles) in a three-piece, tailor-made, measured-to-fit suit? Or how about that grey fedora, setting just low enough to accentuate the cut of his jaw and the fine angles of his aquiline nose? Not to mention his hair all sleek and parted on the side with Brylcreem (or perhaps Makassar oil) that showed off the noble shape of his head?
All of those parts (and other parts, as well) assembled altogether simply cannot be beat. (Dean, when he looks at himself in the mirror is, by the glint in his green eyes, keenly aware of this, and probably wishes Sam could see him looking so dapper. For all he lives in grungy jeans, I sometimes get the feeling that Dean would be a clotheshorse, if the option were up to him.) It is for this reason, seeing Dean dressed like this, that I lovethis time-travel episode; the 1940′s were a haven for broad shoulders and trim, athletic hips, and Dean takes to the clothing of this particular time period as though he were born to it.
The closest Sam gets to being as dapper as Dean is when he is wearing the brown raincoat he dons in his FBI mode. I’ve known for a while how broad Sam’s (and Padalecki’s) shoulders are, but that coat makes him look ridiculously tall, and incredibly broad shoulder. And, really, when Ackles stands next to Padalecki in this outfit, it really accentuates how SHORT Ackles is. Really, really short. Only 6 foot, two inches tall, I hear. He’s so short in that scene, you barely notice him standing there. (Insert laugh track here.)
And, as well, Show did an excellent job bringing 1944 to life. That is, if you ask me, because whether or not the streetlights, living room ornaments, radio fittings, shop window trimmings, car chromework, and light fixtures, et al, were accurate is not for me to say. All I can tell you was that the ensemble, like Dean’s suit, was effective and engaging. Yes, I could say that everything was a bit too bright and shiny, because even in the 1940′s there were, perhaps, more bums and trash, and vagrants, and the civil rights case of Brown vs. Board of Education was, sadly, many years in the future. But while 1944 wasn’t a Utopia, it did have, to my mind, a sense of style and a fashion for hats that we have sadly fallen away from.
In addition to the sepia-toned camera work, I enjoyed the crime photos that Sam studied with Sheriff Mills in order to find Dean in the past. Because apparently, back in the day, it was perfectly okay to pose the good people of the local constabulary, including small children, around a newly found corpse. Which makes it seem rather as if the closeness of that particular village required everyone’s participation in the cycle of life and death.
Certainly, in those days, everyone was closer to death, as Grandma and Grandpa might die at home, in their own beds, after being nursed by a member of the family, and Crazy Uncle Carl was really chained in the attic, in order to spare everyone the shame of having the town actually know that there was something wrong with his brain, something that might or might not be catching. Still, we looked after our own in those days, and Show’s crime photos (though either newly made originals or manipulated old photos) certainly gave a taste of that. I applaud the member of Show’s team who bravely raised their hand at the Creative Meeting and said, “We need a b/w photo of a little girl pointing at a corpse in the neighbor’s yard, we really do!” Thank you for that.
I also enjoyed, need it be said, Sam’s Samhair in this ep. By the looks of it, Episode 12 was filmed after Padalecki and Ackles’ Christmas break, because The Samhair in Episode 12 is WAY longer than it was in Episode 11. Long enough so that the ends of it continually brushed Sam’s shoulders, got tangled behind his ears, and flew about at the least breath of wind, rising up to heights to create a kind of halo of sable and silk around his head. But keep your yaps shut and let me wax poetic about this, for soon enough I will write negative things, and you’ll be sorry you complained about my love for The Samhair. Which, of course, is “like the cedars of Lebanon, like the great cedars of Lebanon that give their shade to the lions and to the robbers who would hide them by day. was as dark as the cedars of Lebanon” and probably smells as sweet as the same.
Then there is the Grotty Squat, which sent me into a rapturous state, that Sam and Dean stayed in in order to investigate the series of corpses (drained of life and blood) that kept showing up in the small town of Canton, Ohio. They find the most decrepit place in town, complete with papered windows, no carpeting, dirt and grit everywhere, and a barely working bathroom. Then they do Rock/Paper/Scissors to determine who gets the bedroom. (Though I would imagine that there should be more than one bedroom in a house like that.)
Sam, naturally, wins, as he always has and always will, and gets to sleep in the master bedroom. What I didn’t understand was why they had to each fling their bedrolls in different parts of the house to begin with. I mean, they’ve shared hotel rooms, bathrooms, and probably even the same hotel bed upon occasion, so whyfor the separate accommodations in this instance? It doesn’t change the plot later, when Sam sees his name scrawled in the wood, so why did Show deny me the “let’s have a sleepover” feel of both Sam AND Dean bunking on the floor together? (Extra kudos for including the Green Coleman cooler; an excellent silent and recurring character.)
As for the Monster of the Week, Chronos is discovered to be the reason for the dead, mummified corpses being found in sets of three every now and then. The backstory as to why he’s doing this (he’s an ex-god with no worshippers to give him energy and so now must find his own sacrifices) is simple enough to be effective. But, the problem I have is that he’s fallen in love with his little missy and goes elsewhere in time to get his sacrifices, and then returns to her.
Halfway through the ep, he offers to take her with him, so as to avoid trouble with the FBI, but if he could have done this, at any time, then why didn’t he? If he loved her so much, then why not tell her and have them both travel through time together? That way, they could have avoided the trouble they ended up with. Plus, who among you isn’t as tired of the “monsters have feelings and families” trope as I am? How many more monsters will cry before Sam and Dean let one of them live? And why not let them live? Chronos was only killing bums and vagrants anyhow. (Insert laugh track here.)
But, I must give kudos to Show and lots of them for the marvelous casting of all the secondary characters this time around. I recognized Jason Dohring from Veronica Mars, where he played Logan Echolls, who was an enigmatic and complex character I enjoyed watching. Dohring brings that same complexity to Chronos.
As well, Nicholas Lea (who played the fiendishly interesting Alex Krycek in The X-Files), plays, with gritty realism, the infamous Elliot Ness. Also of note, was the woman who played Chronos’ girlfriend, Lila. There’s something about women of the ’40′s, especially during the war years, something about their faces, or perhaps it was the fashion to have high foreheads, and a square shape to their eyes, and the set of their mouths. Melissa Roxburgh captured this exactly, and the Casting Department was smart to grab her when they saw her. Linda Darlow, as well, simply sold me on being Ness’s assistant.
So here’s where I start to complain, you can stop reading now if you like. To anyone who reads my reviews, you already know what the complaint is, and that is the fact that Sam and Dean were separated for most of the ep. And not only that, but Dean gets to Time Travel, while Sam is forced to stay in the Grotty Squat on his own, and struggle to find Dean in amidst the strings and vibrations of the past. Why is it that Dean gets the spotlight, and has all the fun of meeting Eliot Ness, while Sam must stay at home (in the present) and never gets to go anywhere cool? And if the boys are apart, they can’t be seen relating to each other, which is the reason I started watching Show in the first place. I will continue to complain until I get my way.
But wait, there’s more I want to complain about! In the midst of Sam’s Deanless sufferings, Sherriff Jody Mills arrives on the scene. Frankly, she’s a terrific character, and I’m not sure how Show has managed it ere this long, but she’s remained consistently smart, and interesting, and independent. True, she’s mourning Bobby in a big way (personally I suspect she was falling in love with him), but that in no way diminishes her ability to remain fairly three-dimensional, with nary a trace of lipstick or the need to flash some boobage to prove that she’s female.
Least you become confused, I’m not complaining about Sheriff Mills as much as I’m trying to point out that once again, Show saddles Sam with someone who is not Dean. Regardless of the fact that I like Sheriff Mills, I wanted Dean with Sam.
And, as well, Dean meets Eliot Ness’s co-Hunter lady, who acts like (and seems to be intended to be read as) a Female Bobby. She’s irascible, and tart, and suffers no fools gladly. And not only can she sew (which I assume Bobby could), she also refers to Dean as an “idjut” just like Bobby used to. There’s nothing else you can do but see her as a Female Bobby. But seriously, does anyone really think that Dean is as fickle as to be able to replace Bobby that easily? Show does Dean a disservice to even consider the notion.
On top of which, I object to the roles that each woman plays for the boys. With Dean, the Female Bobby is bossy and flirty and touches Dean all over the place. She even kisses him without permission, and puts him in his place (as he tries to object) but wiping her lipstick from his mouth in a territorial manner. On the flip side, back in the present, Sheriff Mills bosses Sam around, and tells him to mind his manners, calls him “young man” in a mock-threatening way, and basically assumes responsibility for his sleeping habits. In short, Show gave Dean a flirty lover figure, and gave Sam a “mommy” figure. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice. And if you didn’t, go back and take another look. How come Sam is never the one to get laid in these scenarios?
There were some very fun, albeit quick, reference to the “Back to the Future” movie series. When Dean is looking at Chronos’s ledger of bets, Dean says that what he’s doing is a “Biff,” which took me a moment or two to figure out. In the BTTF movies, a character named Biff gets a sports magazine and uses it in the past to place bets and win a lot at the racetrack, the boxing ring, etc., etc.
Then, about halfway through the ep, Dean figures out that he should leave a message for Sam, so that Sam will get it in the future. But instead of sending a Fed Ex or Wells Fargo parcel to be delivered to Sam at the Grotty Squat, he carves Sam’s name in the wood in Sam’s room, and leaves a single sheet of paper with a quick note on it. Frankly, he should have, and had the time, to write a whole lot more and ensure the delivery by sending it via a registered and long-lived delivery service. Dean’s seen the BTTF movies, so he should have known better – the wooden panel could have gotten painted over enough times to obscure the carving of Sam’s name! (Still it was fun to watch him think of it, and to see Sam discover it.)
In the end, Sam gets the note and figures out (through Bobby’s old journals) that he’s got to summon Chrono’s at exactly the time the god has his hands on Dean. Luckily, the find Lila, and she tells them the date and time, and Sam casts the spell. Voila it works, and after telling Sam (and Dean, too, though his comments were directed at Sam) that bad, black-goo-laced things will happen to him, Chronos dies. It was a bit anticlimactic, to say the least, and leaves Sam and Dean wondering what to do next, and me wondering why Show does the things it does.
Wouldn’t it have been MORE fun to see both Sam and Dean in three-piece suits and Fedoras? Remember the Star Trek Episode “A Piece of the Action?” In that one, both Kirk AND Spock got three-piece suits AND Fedoras. Kirk’s ensemble was blue-grey, and Spock’s was brown; to see them BOTH like that was as funny and entertaining as hell. Why on earth Show couldn’t see the entertainment factor of taking both the boys back in time is beyond me; I think that they’re so close to their subject matter that they miss a lot of potential. I mean, The Samhair, those bright green eyes and that blazing smile in a Fedora? What a gem that would have been. A true gem.