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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


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


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


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


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.


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).


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


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.


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.


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.


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*.
30th-Sep-2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
I think more so that Dean had a better chance of understanding the ramifications of what he did to Sam. He said he'd "do it again" (most horrifying lines in S9 for me), which means he has no idea of the true pain the caused Sam. (or does, and doesn't care).....I also think it relied on the audience to read between Sam's lines in that scene, rather than come away with a clear understanding of what he's trying to say (or rather, work out what's truth, what's anger and what's hurt)

Can people (Dean or audience members) sincerely plead ignorance, though? After we and Dean heard what Sam said in Road Trip, after we heard Dean himself say he knew it was a violation before he even decided to go along with it? For those purposes, Sam happening on the mythical perfect formula of words where he wouldn't get docked too many credibility points to be believed would IMO be redundant.

Perhaps talking around the topic is typical behaviour for an abuse victim. I don't really know.

I think it is, and in kind of a meta way, it's for reasons that I think are playing out in fandom as well as in-universe. Like, look at how Dean has responded whenever Sam has actually been forthright with him. Sam says he's hurting, Dean wigs about how HE'S HURTING WORSE, GOD SAM! Sam doesn't suffer enough and he gets ripped for being cold, or for "saying you're STRONGER THAN ME?!?" (ACTUAL QUOTE). When he specifically says "Dean, you hurt me" Dean yells at him for ~allowing himself to be hurt, then hugs Sam and implies (though doesn't explicitly make) a promise that he'll try and do better, and then turns around and hurts him even worse. Sam talking around the issue is a completely reasonable response to the events of the S8 finale/S9 premiere.

And that's how it happens - ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU. Sam being as vulnerable as he is in S9 means that he really can't afford to open himself up as wholly and consistently as people seem to want him to? Because when he lays himself open for the Beautiful Brother Moment that Dean/fandom consider to be acceptable behavior, it leads to things getting worse for him, and he cannot afford for things to get any worse.

I mean, I don't claim to have 100% clear understanding of authorial intent or whatever. I'm not arguing that this rationale is The Right And Only Way to read those lines. But I am pretty defensive of (a) the line as a good-enough line, one that wouldn't have this kind of ~weight of egregiousness in fandom if it were being received in context and on its own merits, rather than being stripped of narrative context and being used as the way in for people to make the arguments they would make no matter what and (b) the appropriateness of good-enough lines coming from fictional abuse survivors in general, because I think it's really important to challenge this idea that there's an accurate and acceptable way for survivors to be.

IDK maybe next season will be awful and I'll be disappointed! But blah blah, I'm talking a lot because right now I'm really looking forward to it.
2nd-Oct-2014 01:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your thoughts. :) I can't figure it out either. I just know that your arguments always makes sense and it makes it all the more heartbreaking. I find Sam's story heartbreaking enough as it is - and then add the layer of Dean being abusive, it's almost just too much to bear.

I'm always curious to see where each season takes us. I'm not sure I will be able to cope with much more Sam hate from fandom (especially when all he's doing is standing up for himself). we'll see! I am pretty excited just to have it returning. :))
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