*yikes* terrible cut-text pun...I couldn't help myself! I really enjoyed that - it's SO nice to come away from an episode not feeling like your heart's been completely ripped out. I'm almost a little bit giddy about it.:)
Any episode that feels old school is going to get the thumbs up from me. It also helped that: Jody not only appeared but was given some genuine character growth, it was a MoTW episode, it had a good helping of Sam and Dean and there was not an angel or demon in sight. It looked great, the acting was solid and even though there wasn't a lot of the major story arc in there, it touched on it enough to be satisfying.
It was also very creepy - I was tense almost the entire time (and not only because of the way it was filmed but because I was fretting that Jody would be killed (or turned) or that Sam would be made to do or say something that would have fandom up in arms (which might have happened - I haven't checked). Jody survived (YAY!) and we even got a new secondary character (maybe? I don't know if "Alex" will return but there's great potential for her (and Jody) to do so).
The direction was good (new director to SPN I think), even though the wibbly wobbly, unsteady-cam was beginning to make me feel a bit sea sick. Luckily that settled down after the first couple of scenes (or I stopped noticing it).Ten things:
1. I have to admit that when that young girl first appeared I did a little eye roll because I thought we might be in for a cardboard cutout character who needed to be rescued from the MoTW. It turns out she did need to be rescued but she was given a backstory that was shaded enough for it to be interesting. It was not "black and white" and as with past vampire stories those shades of grey were really important. Is she "bad" because she lured people to their deaths or was she the product of her family environment, and therefore possibly innocent of those deeds? I can't help but think there's a parallel to be drawn here with the Winchesters. It wasn't overt, but any episode that deals with family has be a little reflective of Sam and Dean's lives. She was also a human surrounded by monsters - so the question about whether that "rubs off on you" is also an underlying theme I think (the notion of Sam and Dean becoming "monsters" due to the type of work they do is always fascinating to me).
2. Writer, Robert Berens, wrote two female characters, who talked to each other, about something other than men (and thus passing the Bechdel Test with flying colours). In fact there were 3 interesting female characters. Mama vampire added another layer to the story - providing a reflection for Jody and a strong bond and sense of loyalty for Alex (I'm just going to call her Alex even though she had a number of names). I loved the way those stories intersected.
3. Sam and Dean's issues were simmering beneath the surface (festering might be a better word), but they carried on (as they have been doing for a number of episodes now) in order to get the job done. I liked that this episode hinted at those troubles (Sam's "touch and go") but didn't dwell on them. Dean is obviously still stinging from Sam's statement that he "wouldn't do the same for him" and no doubt this is going to be playing very heavily as we come into the final episodes. It was mentioned last week and now this week. It's going to me a MAJOR catalyst for whatever is coming. And Sam's added "same circumstances" hardly seems relevant at the moment.
4. One of the most striking things for me in this episode was the continuity of Jody's character. Mentions of what's happened to her in the past (shoulder injury, date with Crowley) and also further development of the weight of loss and grief over losing her family. Her acknowledgement that the grief doesn't go away just because you pretend it isn't there really hit home for me. I don't know if it was supposed to reflect what's been happening to the boys but I'd like to think it was a nod to the way both of them bury their feelings and pretending it doesn't matter. Ignoring what's happened doesn't mean it's gone away.
5. I loved being on the edge of my seat. I like it when they remember they are a horror genre show and give us the classical horror film techniques. We even have the..."don't do that!" moments that ratchet up the tension (Jody isolating herself in the cabin, the three of them splitting up in the house, Jody going down to the basement, getting caught etc). I honestly didn't know how this was going to play out and I was genuinely worried for Jody and even the boys!
6. Sam stayed conscious (yay!) - bit of a novelty these days. I won't deny I would like him to have been involved in some of the kickassery, but it was important for us to see what Dean would do so we can see more of this developing darkness.
7. Speaking of Dean's growing darkness. It's become more obvious how difficult it is to show Dean being dark because nothing that we are seeing at the moment is much different than what we've seen before. It harkens back the way he was in Season 2 after John died. And then later what we saw him capable of in Purgatory. Dean killing that vamp and enjoying it didn't hit the "omg, Dean you is so dark!" that I think it was meant to. Even Sam's acknowledgement of Dean enjoying it felt a little lame. Hasn't Dean always enjoyed killing monsters? Certainly to hear him tell it to Gordon in Blood Lust we know there's a certain thrill and satisfaction. And then later him confessing he enjoyed torturing should in Hell. I think they are going to have to dig really deep if they want us to believe he's any "darker" than he's been before. Unless that's not the intention. (I know this plays into Carver re-telling Kripke's version of early season Sam and Dean. He didn't achieve much when he re-told Sam's need for a normal life so I don't have a lot of faith that he'll do anything more interesting with Dean's "darkness"). I think if he start to kill innocent people we might get to see how dark he's getting (not that I want that for him, but it's the next level I think). That's not to say that what we saw wasn't scary!Dean. He's stronger than before and it's clearly freaking Sam out. And I like Jensen's consistency with this Dean. He has a permanent scowl - there's little of the merriment we know Dean has inside him.
8. Hmmm...speaking of Carver's retelling of Kripke's version...maybe Jody and Alex are the new Ellen and Jo? I admit that's who I was thinking of at the end of the episode. Jody potentially has a new daughter and Alex a new mother. I didn't mind their new connection and it's possibly the closest we'll ever get to a "happily ever after" for any SPN character. Of course it's not the end of either of their stories, but they might be able to enjoy some peace until the writers bring them back. It provided some sort of resolution for both of these characters.
9. I know I'm biased but having an episode that didn't involve either angels or demons allows the universe to be less...er...murky. There's so much canon now surrounding heaven, hell, demons, angels etc. any episode that features them seems to have to re-invent or retcon past canon. I like that this episode stuck to what we know about vampires. It even remembered that there's a vampire cure (that made me woot! a little bit I have to say. :D). The show seemed to remember its roots and that was pretty satisfying.
10. What does this week's MoTW themes mean for Sam and Dean? It's tricky because on the face of it, it looks like being loyal to your family doesn't mean you can't kill them. Alex was torn by her loyalty to her mother - not wanting to disappoint her, or let her down - and doing something that she thought was "right". She wanted more for her own life and sort an escape. She was returned and it resulted in her killing her mother, who she loved, in order to save someone else - someone she was starting to get close to. If that's suppose to reflect either of the boys (and Sam's the one that it seems to most fit) it's pretty worrying.
I feel we are heading toward a conflict that will require one brother to kill the other (Cain/Able Michael/Lucifer comparisons) and that's going to be very intense and possibly depressing. Dean may end up being capable of killing Sam due to the Mark (and he's coming across pretty pissed of with Sam atm) but on the flip side Sam might feel it's "necessary" in order to save innocent people from Dean. ACK! I'm not sure I want to contemplate this too much. A confrontation like this has been brewing for a while and if we are getting Carver's version of the earlier season then the Michael!Dean/Lucifer!Sam battle that didn't happen might just be on the cards. Doesn't mean either of them will succeed but just the act of trying
to will be pretty devastating. *ducks under the covers* (purely speculation and I have no idea how this would play into the themes they set up in the beginning of the season. Though, other than Dean's guilt and thinking Sam won't save him the first half of the season seems to have been ignored).
(I was all happy after I watched this and now I think I just depressed myself....stoopid show).