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just enough to make us dangerous
My Top 5 episodes of Season Nine. 
28th-Sep-2014 08:30 pm
Dean Don't make me lick your face
In preparation for S10 starting in 10 days (WOOT!) I thought I'd reflect on S9 and pick my top 5 episodes (though I ended up cheating a bit…)

No doubt about it, season 9 was a difficult one for me. I felt like it started with such enormous potential but as it didn't go in the direction I thought it was going to go (and examination of Sam's numerous possessions and Dean's inherent need to "save" Sam), I was left feeling disappointed. There were some great episodes, some not so great ones and some (many) that left me incredibly frustrated.

I want to go into Season 10 a little more positive than I left season 9 so I thought I'd revisit the season and look at some of the episodes I either really enjoyed or felt were strong.

Looking at the season in its entirety, we can see this was mostly about Dean becoming a demon. I think the season successfully told Dean's story and by the end we can see a clear journey arc for his character. It wasn't exactly pretty, but for Dean to "realistically" become a demon it shouldn't have been. I felt it also had a pretty clear "human" story arc for Castiel. I don't think it was as thoroughly handled as Dean's story, but it was fairly clear. He discovered more about human nature and what it means to be human. The same with Crowley. His story was mirrored by Castiel's - in that they both experienced what it's like to be human. Sam didn't really have a story as such - his main role was to bring about Dean's demonness - which he did end up doing rather successfully. His story could have been about possession and his repeated loss of agency, but it never really featured, other than to cause the angst between the brothers. Again, Sam managed that very successfully too.

I am trying to leave out my (probably obvious) bitterness over the fact that Sam was mostly used as a plot device. I suppose we did witness just how strong Sam is and how well he handles everything that's thrown at him. Aside from his few comments to Dean about the possession not much else really happened for him (and no, I don't consider him being Zeke/Gadreel his story arc). I thought we had witnessed an incredible realisation from Sam that there are certain lines that can't be crossed when bringing each other back from the dead, but alas, that fizzled as the season drew to an end. Though we did get to see the depth of his own self-loathing - more than once saying that he couldn't see the upside to being alive. (Though, it's a little strange coming after the "I can see light at the end of the tunnel" speech in S8). Aaanyway. I've already said enough about all that in past reviews, so moving right along. In no particular order...



1. 9.01 I Think I'm Going to Like it Here by Jeremy Carver. Directed by John Showalter

9.01-Sam-n-Dean


Even though the full potential of this episode didn't play out (or hasn't as yet), I still consider it one of my favourites of the season. I loved that we got to see Dean's turmoil in having to make a very difficult decision (angsting brother love yay!, I loved seeing inside Sam's head (telling himself he's done enough, time to go) and it was great to see Death again. I liked the way this episode set Dean on his journey to demonhood and presented this beautifully complex dilemma of how far is too far when saving each other. It also set up a great mystery because even this early on, we were suspicious about the seemingly "good" angel. I enjoyed getting to see inside Sam's head and seeing how he was rationalising moving on. I also remember thinking that the shit was going to hit the fan BIG TIME when Sam found out and being really curious about how that was going to play out (and even though it really did hit the fan, unfortunately most of the shit ended up landing on Sam which was a little unfortunate, as it's almost the entire reason why this season is so difficult for me).


2. 9.13 The Purge by Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder. Directed by Phil Sgriccia

9.13-The-Purge-


I re-watched this recently and it's one of the few episodes from the season that I am happy to re-watch. Sam as a yoga instructor and drugged!Dean could be major reasons for that *g*, but there was also a pretty cool MoTW, an awesome new character - Sheriff Donna Hanscum (hope we get to see her again) and of course that final scene that pretty much turned everything (and fandom) on its head. I like that the boys were working well together (as they had in pretty much every episode leading up to this one) and even though Sam had proclaimed that their relationship was now purely "business", we could see by his actions (and worry and concern over Dean), was anything but.

I think my only episode review that contained capslock during S9 was this one. Before I had realised how fans had actually reacted to Sam's words I was squeezing load over Sam's words to Dean. To me, the season had suddenly taken real shape. I had found an anchor for what this season seemed to be all about. They started having a discussion about what was going "too far". It was exciting and seemed to be a step in the right direction for both characters. But ALAS! Instead of being any of the things I got excited about, it ended up being a kind of mockery of those things. Dean learned nothing and Sam communicated very poorly (and was consequently vilified by fandom. *sadface*). THAT SAID, I still love it. Looking back, it was very much about pushing Dean to say yes to the Mark and helped continue his demon journey (EDIT! I won't delete that line, but it's wrong. Dean already had the mark by this episode) . I still think "you brought me back for you", is one of the best and most revealing lines about the characters in the season. If this ends up being examined more in S10, then I'll be one happy fangirl.



3. 9.19 Alex Annie Alexis Ann by Robert Berenes. Directed by Stefan Pleszczynski

9.19-Jody


My favourite thing about this episode is the writing of the female characters. It felt like a complex examination of family ties and ability to break them if you can see that they are harmful (which, at the time seemed to be a comment on the brothers' relationship but it was never really made clear enough to confirm that). I loved that Jody was given some more character depth and we could see how she's been able to move on through all her tragedy. It also helped that the women didn't need rescuing and existed outside of romance or purely victim. We also got to see more of Dean's journey to the dark side (and how much Sam's words have really effected him - "you wouldn't do the same for me") and Sam's ability to just keep swimming. Probably my overall favourite episode.


4. 9.04 Slumber Party by Robbie Thompson. Directed by Robert Singer

9.04-Slumber-Party-ending


Ok, this was pretty silly but I loved seeing Charlie again. I also loved that we got to see a HEAP more of the bunker and we got to meet Dorothy. It's an easy watching episode, with some fantastic little moments (them all watching Game of Thrones, Sam's look to Dean after he says "there's no place like home" at the end etc.). And even though it wasn't obvious at the time, we got to see more of Dean's slide to the dark side. He not only made the choice to bring someone else back from the dead again, he used the angel inside his brother to do it. It's a small thing in some ways (and I know it makes Dean look even more like a hero, but it starts to bring into question what it means to be a hero) but these kinds of decisions build up to create a Dean who is piling on the questionable choices. It didn't hit all the marks that he could have done, but it was a fun one to re-watch.


5. Picking a 5th one has been very difficult as there really isn't another complete episode that I loved enough. Instead, I'll pick some moments I loved from various episodes.


5a) 9.02 Devil May Care by Andrew Dabb. Directed by Guy Norman Bee

Actually, this is a pretty solid episode. There were great visual moments and it gave us a little more information about the nature of the angel possessing Sam.

9.02-Abbaddon-&-dean

The scene between Abbaddon and Dean was not only sexy as hell, it's probably the reason why Dean became particularly focused on killing Abbaddon later in the season (*head canon*). I loved that Dean is threatened with possession. I thought this might have given Dean (and the audience) an opportunity to reflect on what he'd allow happen to Sam. But, alas that didn't happen (though I'm going to read it like that because I LOVE the irony of it).


9.02-Angel-wings

Sam and those glorious angel wings! Fantastic scene - there were some awesome special effects in this season.



9.002-Dean-and-Sam-at-end

I remember really loving this final scene. It suggested that Sam was on the mend and happier than he's ever been (which, of course, is all sorts of wrong considering he has an angel living inside of him) and we get to see how conflicted Dean is about the situation. It was a real "calm before the storm" moment.


b) 9.11 First Born by Robbie Thompson. Directed by John Badham.

9.11-Cain

The casting of Timothy Omudson as Cain is pretty much why I like this episode as much as I do. I really enjoyed all his scenes and we get to see just how dark things have become for Dean. Crowley is seen as the "baddie" he really is (manipulative meanie) and we learn the history of Cain and Able (and start to wonder how that relates to Sam and Dean). The was a HUGE body count in this episode. Demon vessels are a dime a dozen and even awesome new characters (Tara) aren't immune from being killing off immediately (that's not something I liked, just an observation. I'm not sure if the Show has forgotten each demon (and angel) is a human vessel, or we have to accept them as collateral damage in this war).

Unfortunately the other half of the story - Sam and Cas - didn't work so well for me. I watched it again recently and had hoped that I could see what was trying to be done there. Other than creating a further connection between Sam and Cas (which - yay), I am still confused what we were supposed to take from it.


c) 9.10 Road Trip by Andrew Dabb. Directed by Robert Singer.

This is a pretty solid episode - just incredibly difficult to watch. As much of a hurt!Sam fan that I am, watching Sam being tortured here was pretty difficult. The utter lack of control Sam has over what's happening to him is frightening. I actually LOVE that aspect of it, but as we never really got to see what effect it had on Sam (other than being pissed with Dean) I think this episode was more giving Dean further motivation for his demonhood journey. Though, the moment Sam regained control and ordered Gadreel out was great - and a huge relief.


9.10-Sam-get-out

Sam kicking out Gadreel was a major highpoint of the season for me.


d). 9.23 Do You Believe in Miracles by Jeremy Carver. Directed by Thomas J. Wright.

9.23-face-touching

As I am only choosing scenes for my number 5 I had to include this one. Any time one of the boys dies, we have a powerful scene. And even though I didn't find it as powerful as past brother-dying scenes, it still packed a punch because of wooby eyes (yes yes, crying boys and face touching and angst and more angst).

I actually didn't like this episode much at all - not necessarily because it's a "bad" one (though I don't really consider it a "good" one), it just didn't do enough after a whole season of massive angst between the brothers. For me, "I'm proud of us" is almost a mockery of everything that went before. SO much pain and hurt and misunderstanding and wrongness during the season, only to be given "I'm proud of us" to make it all better. I adore the sentiment - truly. It's perfect for the brothers and if Dean was dying in better circumstances (and not because he pigheadedly took on the Mark and then decided to face Metatron alone) then it would have been so much more powerful (I think. That's really personal. I know "I'm proud of us" means a lot to many fans. And it would for me - in other circumstances).

Then we had the birth of demon!Dean and that's all kinds of exciting. It opens up a whole new can of worms sets a new stage for S10.


I know there were many other enjoyable moments (like dog!Dean), but these are the ones that spring to mind when I'm looking back at S9.

I would like to think that I'll like S9 a lot better after S10. I am REALLY hoping it's the middle chapter and after the final chapter (S10) it will all make more sense.

I'll blather about my hopes for S10 in another post *g*.
Comments 
29th-Sep-2014 12:22 am (UTC)
9.13 The Purge Looking back, it was very much about pushing Dean to say yes to the Mark and helped continue his demon journey. NO! NO! NO!

First, I'm going to apologize for my rant before I start ranting. I've been fighting this one all year on all sorts of boards. Dean already HAD the mark in The Purge. In Road Trip, Sam kicks Gadreel out and Dean goes off in fit of pique, declaring himself "poison" before Sam had much chance to say two words! Dean has been told that throwing Gadreel out of Sam will kill him, but Dean takes off not knowing if Sam will drop dead in the next day or two, you know, just in case Gadreel was telling the truth and maybe Cas can't heal Sam with his stolen, (we're not sure if it works, let's take it out for a test drive) grace. Dean gave Sam about 10 seconds to forgive him absolutely (Or I'll go off and do something more stupid than selling my soul!) then he goes off and does something more stupid than selling his soul. (Okay, I'm being hard on Dean, but really look before you leap man!)

As for becoming a demon, even that's not in any way related to how Sam behaved. Crowley said that the legend said that the Mark would not let Cain (or anyone bearing the Mark) die. Dean was going to become a demon, no matter what. The only thing we were spared by Sam being distant was Sam researching the Mark, finding out about Dean becoming a demon when he died getting Season 3 "I'll save you Dean! OOPS, maybe not," redux.

What this really shows is the big problem with the writing this year. Even people who like Sam and sympathized with him remember the progression as Dean tricks Sam into possession, Sam throws Gadreel out and finds out the truth, Sam says mean things to Dean in The Purge, Dean goes and gets the Mark because he's hurt. What's really amusing is that you list both The Purge and First Born as your top episodes AND you list the episode numbers for each and the idea that The Purge came before Dean took the Mark is still what sticks in your head.

The sad thing is that what really happens takes away the idea that Sam had any part in the season arc. Just like you, I wanted the story to be about how far was too far, Dean's inability to let go, why Sam letting go after season 7 wasn't a bad thing. Instead it became about how Sam drove Dean to demonhood and that isn't even what happened. For all the effect Sam had on the season he could have been wallpaper, or a sexy lamp. He didn't get to express his emotions about possession. He didn't have a POV. Heck he didn't even make Dean susceptible to taking the Mark. Sam did absolutely NOTHING of importance this season. The show is on very thin ice for me.

I did like the episodes you liked, although I would probably switch out Mother's Little Helper for Slumber Party, because at least Sam got to free souls in that one.

Edited at 2014-09-29 12:22 am (UTC)
29th-Sep-2014 01:02 am (UTC)
Dean already HAD the mark in The Purge.

ACK! My bad!! *hangs head in shame*. And here I was giving myself a good reason why the show made Sam so harsh. Boo!


As for becoming a demon, even that's not in any way related to how Sam behaved.

Believe me, I'm not saying that because I want it to be so - or that I am in any way happy about it. In my head, I just can't see what USE Sam was in S10, other than to help push Dean toward demonhood. By seeing that Sam was used as a plot device helps me see how the writers actually see Sam. I don't want it to be so (makes me very unhappy I can tell you), but I seriously cannot see any other reason for Sam's possession (and then bitterness towards Dean) if it wasn't somehow connected Dean's self loathing and self destructive state of mind (and in turn show how damaging their relationship can be).

What's really amusing is that you list both The Purge and First Born as your top episodes AND you list the episode numbers for each and the idea that The Purge came before Dean took the Mark is still what sticks in your head.

I KNOW! MY BRAIN WENT INTO A FREEZE! Actually, I've been sitting on this post for over a week - knowing that something was wrong. BAH! I'm kicking myself. And it IS weird that I have it in my head that it was after Sam's words that Dean got the Mark. Why did I think that?!

The sad thing is that what really happens takes away the idea that Sam had any part in the season arc.

Yes. Exactly. In my mind Sam didn't have an arc this season. Or, if he did I can't see it. If his role wasn't somehow crucial to Dean's journey (and I don't mean it's Sam's fault that Dean is a demon - AT ALL!) then what was he even doing there?

So yeah, my conclusion that Sam existed merely to assist Dean's journey still holds true for me (even though I messed up those episodes /o\). I hate it and what I (think) I am going to hate EVEN MORE is that S10 will no doubt continue this line and eventually have Sam take the blame for Dean (which, I don't think he did in S9) and do something equally stupid to "prove" his love for Dean. Argh - I wasn't going to grumble about S10...

Thanks for putting me straight! I have re-watched only a few episodes from S9 and Dean getting the mark after being shunned by Sam was making some sense to me. So, now *head adjustment*... Dean drove himself toward the mark because of his self hatred for what he did to Sam - or just his self hatred generally.

Ok. Now that I've shifted my thinking I'm sure there will be other things that will occur to me (like maybe the mark was beginning to affect Dean as early as The Purge episode).

Thanks. :)


Edited at 2014-09-29 01:04 am (UTC)
29th-Sep-2014 01:13 am (UTC)
I do think that the Mark started to affect Dean almost immediately. Several people commented that The Mark didn't change how Dean behaved that much. He wasn't much more violent than normal. I do think that was the point, that Dean got the Mark because he was already aligned with it.

I honestly don't think Sam had a part in the story in season nine, at all really. I do think that in the end, the writers are going to go the easy way and blame Sam for Dean taking the Mark, becoming a demon. They are then going to show SAM being 100% evil or at least wrong for trying to save Dean. Poor Sam, damned if he does and damned if he doesn't; and sadly for Sam, this is literally true. I think I have to get used to the fact that this is Dean's world and story and Sam is just part of the furniture. As you see, I'm not optimistic about next season.
29th-Sep-2014 01:24 am (UTC)
Poor Sam, damned if he does and damned if he doesn't; and sadly for Sam, this is literally true.

I know. :( I was excited for demon!Dean as I thought we might finally get to see a side of Dean that we CAN'T sympathise with. But knowing that Sam goes even more darkside (and demon!dean actually just looks like a charmer), it seems Sam will be the one (AGAIN!) having to be redeemed.

If they do that - I want it to be SO extreme that "damned if he does, damned if he doesn't" is made really clear. We actually get to see and understand the tragedy that is Sam Winchester's life (they won't do that either, as he'll just end up saying sorry and having to pay for his sins all over again).

I WANT to be positive for S10 - but the last two seasons don't bode well for the next Carver installment.
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