A bit late. I haven't read any reactions because I didn't want it to cloud my initial response. I know that there was a mixed response (I suppose...when isn't there?) but I wanted to get this down. I watched it on the plane back from Sydney and typed this up then.
Well. That was different.
It might be the way I went into this episode (I had a little heads up that it wasn’t received particularly well) but I actually really liked it. In fact, the geek in me loved it because it had two things that I love in Supernatural - 1) homage and 2) outsider POV.
I’m not a great fan of the hand held camera (I had to stop watching Cloverfield because it made me really queasy) but I tolerated this because it was pretty short and there were some interesting things going on with perception – as in, my perception as the viewer (sharing Sam and Dean’s view) and the way the film maker chose the varying shots etc to create his own film - which of course become the film makers of SPN. There was a nice twisting around of what we get to see and a reminder that it's the film maker that choses what we see in order to affect our response.
So yeah. Totally cool stuff to deconstruct and geek over.
We also got little nuggets like “work place romance” that totally satisfied my SamnDean OTP. (thank you show!)
The homage was fun. I haven’t watched The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity but I could easily recognize this stylistic way of filming the modern horror story. Most notably the handheld or hidden static camera. We also had the recognizable character stereotypes (the Y-gen, teens – the geek, the jock and the girl) with familiar issues (friendship, love triangle, wanting to be something we are not etc). We even had the expected “twist” of the girl being the one responsible for the slaughter. It was always going to be one of them and it’s either the one we totally expect it to be or the one we don’t. Either way it’s part of the modern horror genre (and if you haven’t watched Cabin in the Woods it’s a MUST watch for this kind of homage, analysis and comment).
Of course the real twist was how Sam and Dean responded to the discovery of the monster.
I think that even though this episode had little Sam and Dean in it, it spoke volumes about their characters and their arc so far this season. Mostly Dean’s. Though I loved that we got a further look at Sam also. At the end he was on auto pilot and assumed Dean wanted to go after her. It was interesting to see that it looked like Sam was all up for following the hunt but it wasn’t until Dean said no he revealed his true feelings. Did you see the relief on his face? He even reassured Dean that they can always go after her if they need to. No wonder Dean finds Sam hard to read. Look how good he is at hiding what he’s really feeling.
But it’s Dean’s response that’s the big turn about. What a wonderful contrast to his response to Amy from 7.03 (The Girl Next Door). I am sure there’s a direct parallel.
We now know for sure (as we had suspected) that Dean is sympathetic toward monsters. He has a best buddy that's a vampire after all. We also know that Sam is still hunting because Dean is still hunting. I know this hasn’t been fleshed out yet, as in we still need to find out Sam’s true motivations for continuing (it’s my belief that he loves his brother and doesn’t want him hunting by himself), but I think at this point we can accept that he’s by his side and until we get the big “upset” (I’m sure it will come at some point!) we can take comfort in that.
I will admit to finding the story a little tedious – we pretty much knew that Michael was going to be a werewolf from the first bite so the ensuing investigate was a bit ho hum. But I did love seeing Sam and Dean come into the frame, even if only to see how they look to everyone else (gee they're good looking. And weird).
I also think giving us a “video” quality to the footage is particularly difficult on actors. There’s something about altering that cold harsh light that does actors a favour - as in it helps us sustain our disbelief by giving the footage warmth (well, it does for me). Camera angles also help that. So I found it hard to “believe” what I was seeing and kept “seeing” the acting – as a result that removed a lot of the tension for me. This is my way of saying I didn’t like the acting but that I don’t think it was all the actors’ faults. I thought Jared and Jensen pulled it off better (as they should!) –though the action sequence suffered for having a static camera, but *shrugs* there’s such a thing as being too picky.
I also get twitchy when the boys are around crime scenes spreading their finger prints everywhere. I'm pretty sure we're not suppose to read much into that but in the world of CSI style TV we can't but help to think about the traces they continually leave behind.
Mostly, above everything, I love that Show isn’t afraid to do something different. It kept within the parameters of the Show (as in MotW, case and dealing with the supernatural) but it used a “modern” (maybe fashionable?) way of telling that.
My love for Robbie Thompson (the writer) continues. You could see those lovely similarities to Slash Fiction (the video camera’s perspective, outsider POV) and played a little more with our perceptions of Sam, Dean and the nature of the supernatural in a natural world.
I also loved the credits at the end. For me, seeing them made me think we were watching it from the beginning. I think it was a nice little play with our expectations.
I think we have to remember that this is a TV show and it’s limited in many ways. But at least it’s not afraid to go into trickier territory. It has a history of homage (right back to Bloody Mary and the Japanese horror film The Ring) so this was just another way to play with that. And I just think good on them for doing it. Whether fans liked it or not no one say Supernatural gets stuck in a formula.
ETA: If you'd like to see how the MotW(s) parallel Sam and Dean check out cassiopeia7
's take on it.
I think it definitely works.