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Supernatural – Episode 9.07 – The Gripe Review

Writing a Gripe Review for a non-mythology episode is like writing a critique for a homemade movie. Sure there are flaws and continuity errors, but they are mostly small and negligible and get lost in the cozy nature of the movie’s good feels. Such errors also have no real effect on the show’s overall storyline since the episode’s plot is mostly self-contained. Add to it the heartfelt, nostalgic flashbacks of arguably one of the most popular characters on TV, from a time of his life that inspired many a fanfiction – and you see the futility of the practice.

I searched the web high and low, but aside from the Rougarou stumble, and Sam’s questionably young appearance, didn’t find any complaints. Bad Boys, it appears, isn’t the type of episode that generated argument among fans, only gooey thoughts about how cute Dean was as a kid and how sad a childhood he had.

That’s a lie. The episode also provoked discussions around its meanings and parallels. Many fans mentioned that both the flashback and the case of the week corresponded to elements in the main storyline. What those elements are has been the subject of a few debates. There were similar debates about how the episode portrayed John as Sam and Dean’s father, whether it was fair or an example of the show being too harsh on a father who sacrificed himself for his eldest son.

So this week, due to the nature of the 9.07 and the debates around it, the gripe review will be more of a discussion review, meaning I will offer major points of discussion that generated from this episode, and talk about different positions fans took with regards to them.

Discussion Topic #1: How did the present day story parallel Dean and Sam’s current story?

“Sometimes you’ve got to do what’s best for you, even if it’s gonna hurt the ones you love.”

Dean says this to the boy who is holding on so tightly to his mother’s memory her ghost can’t move on. The question that has risen from this line, captivated fans, and sparked debates among them depending on their reading of it, is who this parallels in the Sam and Dean storyline. Is it Sam, who tried to do what was best for him, i.e. dying permanently, even if it meant hurting Dean? Or is it Dean, an advice he should take himself by letting go of Sam and not worrying so much about him getting hurt because it comes at the cost of what is best for him? Personally I see both, but I’m sure there will be differences of opinion in the comments.

Discussion Topic #2: What did the flashback tell us about Dean’s life as Sam’s surrogate parent?

Sam: “Here I was thinking this was the worst part of your life. Turns out it was the best. Why did you ever leave?” 
Dean: “Never felt right.” 
Sam: “Really?”

Sam’s last comment echoes what many of us are thinking: Did it really not feel right to Dean to live away from John and Sam and do things he himself chose to do for once? Could Dean really not wait to get out of that place even though he achieved so much there and had tears in his eyes when he left? What did Dean mean by “It wasn’t me?”

Some say the end scene, where Dean misses out on the school dance with Robin but steels himself and shakes Sonny’s hand, shows how throughout the years, little by little, he has let go of his own wants and needs for the sake of his family. How after every incident, big or small, he put on a brave face and marched on, even though something inside him broke a little.

Others however cite his smile at seeing Sam in the back seat, playing with the toy plane. To them that smile is a sign that no matter how much Dean loses because of his duties as surrogate parent, he still finds happiness due to being with Sammy. That no matter how harsh, how painful, life treats him, it only takes a look at his little brother to make him smile. Not my personal opinion because Dean’s smile looked just a bit too sad in the end. But this viewpoint is supported by a number of fans.

The overall question here is what do #1 and #2 say about the brothers’ codependency?

Discussion Topic #3: Was John’s portrayal in the flashbacks fair?

There were big disputes on whether or not what John did in the episode was right. Both leaving Dean at the boys home and lying to Sam about it, and the end, when he didn’t let him go to the dance. Some think it was cruel and call it an exhibition of how much the show tries to vilify John. Others say it was reasonable within their lifestyle since lives could be at stake and the next hunt could not wait for a teenager to go to a dance.

Personal Gripe: This is me personally ranting about some of the major issues I have with Adam Glass’ writing. He has a talent for coming up with good stories that have their heart in the right place, but he pads them with too much backstory (did we really need to hear the old woman’s long tale about the old farmer that wasn’t even part of the plot?) and stopping a scene in the middle of the action for characters to deliver exposition (the mother’s ghost stayed away just long enough for Timmy to tell Sam and the others what happened to his mom.)

Praise: Dylan Everett gave a stellar performance as young Dean Winchester, in my opinion the best among all the actors who played young Dean. He had the right amount of cockiness and innocence about him, the same qualities that make Jensen’s Dean so appealing. I would love to see him in the role again if they decide to give us more Dean flashbacks in the future.

What do you think about these Discussion Points, Gripe and Praise? Sound off in the comments and let us know.



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