This is a little later than usual. I watched the episode and then had to go out (argh...on a show night!). I had lots of thoughts about it and I wanted to make some gifs and use some caps, so I waited until I could gather that altogether.
*claps* that was an impressive directing debut from Mr Collins I have to say.
The thing I love about actor-directors is the way they seem to understand
actors. I liked the way Misha allowed the actors to have their still moments. Those little moments that gave the characters more depth and meaning. I think some of that was due to the writing, but I suspect a lot came down to Misha understanding what actors can do - and giving them the chance to actually do it. I think Jensen particularly benefitted from that. Jensen needs good guidance to bring out the more subtle elements in his acting (Jared too). There were some beautifully framed shots that allowed Jensen to not do much at all - which works better than simply pointing the camera at him and saying "emote". I bet he and Misha had some good discussions on how to play the scenes and maybe even the best way to shoot them. I'd like to think so anyway.
This shot is a good example:
This frames Dean beautifully. He's just hung up on Sam, he's thinking about the Blade and dials Crowley before hanging up. It's a subtle way of showing how Dean is feeling - things are closing in.
And this one:
The way Dean played pool (*guh*) was a powerful way of indicating what was going on inside him. He gathers the balls and tops the hell out of them! But it's the opposite of what he's feeling inside. He's trying
to control things (gathering it all in an containing it) but the truth is he's all over the place (hits the balls and they scatter everywhere). Awesome!
This is my absolute favourite shot though:
Such a great choice because it makes us think that we are somehow looking at this "ideal" town. It looked
fake and it takes a couple of beats to realise that it actually is. A nice way of visually telling us that all is not what it seems. I'd like to extend that to think it's a visual reminder that the world the boys inhabit is not real - but that might be taking it too far. ;)
(small gifs because damn there's a lot of frames in those suckers...)
The episode was packed with so much stuff
. It revealed a little more about Abaddon's plans, we got to see more of the Mark's affect on Dean, some of Crowley's game plan, the history of how Josie became obsessed, more on Henry Winchester, further canon on souls and we witnessed Sam working like a boss.
The pacing was solid. The story seemed well structured even though I had a few..."er...what?!" moments (more on that later).
This was about watching Dean begin to struggle with the burden of the Mark. I absolutely love the idea of dark Dean (because Jensen does that so well) but wallowing (bordering on self-pitying) Dean is not one of my favourite flavours. I was pleased to see that this was (mostly) avoided and we had a chance to actually see Dean battle with his inner torment.
I think this story line references hell!Dean (the torturer) and purgatory!Dean ("it felt pure"). The Mark is tapping into the thrill of the kill. It's something that Dean has always had and it's one of the major things that has set him apart from Sam - he's always enjoyed hunting, liked the killing. It's pleasing to see them use something that is intrinsic to Dean's characterisation - and something that Dean has struggled with in the past (I am remembering S2 Dean, switching off and killing mercilessly after John's death).
The Blade's calling to him and Dean is doing what he can to fight it (mostly hitting the bottle). He doesn't trust himself - to the point that he couldn't hunt with Sam. He doesn't want to acknowledge how powerful it made him feel - to either Sam or himself. He doesn't trust that he won't kill someone he shouldn't if he's given the chance. There's also guilt tied up how he's feeling - he's a decent person, and killing for the sake of it is nothing something he's want to be. That scene where he stopped the "hunter" from killing Crowley reminded us that Dean cares for other people. The battle going on inside of him is as probably as big as the one between Heaven and Hell at the moment.
He's becoming addicted - just like Crowley and like Sam used to be. Even Cas knows addiction. And John seemed to be addicted to revenge. It's a major theme in the SPN 'verse and this season seems to be exploring that in a big way. I can't wait to see how they resolve it. Will Dean totally succumb or will he need to be rescued? It's a juicy storyline for Dean and as long as we don't get too much gnashing of teeth (and twitching of lip) it may be a good stretch for Jensen.
I loved that it was a strong episode for Sam. There's just something about watching capable, clever, caring Sam that feels - IDK - reminiscent? For so long he hasn't actually been Sam or been allowed to react to what's happened to him (still hasn't!), but at least we see him fighting the good fight and being competent. We get to see what's important to Sam when it comes to hunting - saving people. Making a connection. *happy sigh*
We also got a mention of soulless!Sam. I think my jaw fell to the floor - they actually mentioned something that's happened to Sam in the past. I loved his eye roll when Dean says that of course he remembers that.
It's very curious that for all Sam's "we're not brothers" spiel earlier he is acting very much like a brother. He's showing massive concern for Dean and saying things like "stay safe'. Sam knows Dean well enough not to hound him or press him too hard on the matter. If Dean doesn't want to open up, he won't. Dean's still lying to Sam and Sam knows it. So instead he goes off on the hunt by himself and regularly checks in with Dean (please tell me again how little Sam cares about Dean. And also tell me how horrible Sam is for not pressing Dean on the matter or not calling him a hypocrite for not being clear about what's happening with him. These brothers man. Two peas in a pod!)
Crowley was suitably smarmy (and full of innuendo!). I like this Crowley SO much more than the screaming character we had a couple of seasons ago. It seems that "Crowley is Dean's Ruby" is playing out - but the fact that we know
that Crowley is playing Dean I'd be surprised if that scenario actually plays out. We didn't know what Ruby's end game was. We seem to know what Crowley's is. It will be an anti-climax if it works out the way we're expecting it to (or they way they are hinting at). I also wonder if Crowley becoming more and more human will play a part in what's to come. There's no doubt he's fond of Sam and Dean (the main reason why he's never killed them I suspect), so we might see him being Dean's saviour at some point (and I have no idea how I would feel about that! I really want Sam to be Dean's saviour is anyone is going to be).
Good to get a backstory on Josie and her possession. In fact, just getting some more on the Men of Letters was great. Liked that we got to see more of Henry also (and their grandmother is called Millie!)
The other character that really shone in this episode was the ex-nun Julia Wilkinson (named after our very own missyjack
. How AWESOME!!). Jenny O'Hara did a lovely job of portraying this character and I think Misha did a great job in capturing her performance.
I did love that Dean stayed close to Sam even though he didn't join him on the hunt. The fact that he was in a bar in Milton (where Sam was) speaks volumes about how he instinctively needs to be near Sam. But Dean knows Sam is capable of looking after himself (though argh! Sam walking into that warehouse was scaring me knowing he didn't have Dean as backup. That said, I'm glad Sam got himself out of trouble rather than Dean magically appearing just when he needed to (thanks Adam!).Issues I had:
The biggest "what the?!" moment game when Sam recognised these people as soulless. It made absolutely no sense because Sam was nothing like these people when he was soulless. As much as I love that Sam mentioned something that's happened to him in the past he was opposite to how these people were behaving. They were incredibly aggressive. He had total control. In fact, my first thought was that they had the Croatoan virus (which had me all sorts of squeeful because I thought we might have been getting closer the end!verse). I was disappointed that Sam hadn't suggested that first - or ANYTHING other than soullessness.
As interesting as soul harvesting to create an army is, it kind of all went over my head. I'll have to re-watch because I haven't figured out how that actually works. How do they actually take the souls? And how do they make them demonic? It seems to be another change of earlier canon that told us that souls become demonic over a long period of time. If Sam's soul didn't change after 100 years in hell (or Dean's after 40) then we have to figure that it take much, much longer than that to change. Or was it that once the souls had been removed the vessels became "evil" Ack! Too hard. I really must focus more on the details when I'm watching (and not Dean being crazy hot playing pool!).
And what's happened to the "rift"? The boys are supposed to be at odds but are acting like nothing's happened pre 9.15. Sam's no longer pissed, Dean's no longer troubled by anything other than the Mark. In fact, there is another rift. But now it's more about how Dean is responding to the Blade than anything that's gone before. IT'S DOING MY HEAD IN! Why have two reasons to be separated? I suspect it will all play out as the season progresses but wow they are making it complicated for themselves.Some *phew*, I'm glad that didn't happen moments
There were 2 moments that I thought something was going to happen that I dreaded. One was that Abaddon was somehow going to possess Sam. Just when we got Sam back I was thinking we'd lose him again to possession (where's that tattoo Sam!?!). When he entered that building alone I thought it could only end badly and he'd come out possessed. I was SO relieved that he didn't. As much as Jared revels in playing Sam as "other" I don't want him possessed again - unless it's to MAKE A POINT about him being possessed all the time.
The other moment was when Sam said to Dean "you were right". Fuck me I nearly cried just thinking he was going to say "...saving me, no matter, what was the right thing to do". It felt
like that was where it was heading - but it didn't and again I breathed a sigh of relief. I'm not sure if that's because it didn't even cross the writer's mind or that they were playing with us - making it look
as if Sam was going to be backing down and completely forgetting what's gone before. I'd like to think latter - it means they know what they are doing.
And now some cinematic appreciation
. Misha did good (and maybe Serge helping out?). Lines:
Colour (just something about the red and green...)Placement
(Crowley on Dean's shoulder)Separation
Last week they were working at the same table. This week they are apart (This relationship is crazy man...)
On a final note. This episode added even more to the storyline. Show has so many balls in the air - I seriously hope that can do what Dean did and bring them all together. SO much potential. But also a huge chance of some of those balls will hit the ground with a resounding thud. Let's hope not.