Welcome to another Gripe Review brought to you by Tessa the resident griper.
This week things heated up in Supernatural land. We finally got our mythology for this season, and it revolves around defeating Abaddon, the Knight of Hell, the queen of evil, the devil that should be stopped at all costs because…because…she wrecked the Impala I guess.
So let me get this straight, even though it was this guy:
who cornered Dean, lied to him about his identity, possessed Sam, kicked Castiel out of the bunker, used Sam’s body to kill Kevin, and most recently, teamed up with Metatron, this:
is who they are going after?
I suppose there is less harm in Crowley being the king of hell as opposed to Abaddon, because if we put their sins on a scale Abaddon’s are far greater than Crowley’s. She killed the entire clique of Men of Letters and she…um…she...wrecked the Impala. Yes. That's it. How dare she wreck the Impala?!
Let’s get to the gripes.
Gripe #1: Oh Crowley, the way they wrote thee
Crowley was a charming oddball when he first burst onto our screens. He lived in a mansion, had a tailor whom he cared about, and was sassy with the Winchesters. On top of that he had no problem kissing men, and seemed to quite enjoy kissing Bobby, leading the fandom to suspect him batting for the same sex team.
I always suspected what brought on Crowley’s popularity (aside from Mark Shepard’s excellent performance) was how different he was from, not just the run-of-the-mill demons on the show, but males in general. He didn't chase skirt, didn't mourn the loss of a loved one, nor was he ever reformed through his love for a girlfriend. In fact he didn't care much about anything other than benefiting as much as possible from every situation, and that made him unique.
In that sense he was like Castiel, who also seemed to have focuses other than sex, women or love.
Then Carver came along and changed both of them.
I already talked at length about Castiel’s failed human experiment in previous reviews. What pained me watching this episode was seeing the same thing happen to Crowley. At the start of the episode they saddled him with a PG-13 vixen, who was there purely for fanservice. All of a sudden he was like every other male on the show, obsessed with sex and booze. We already had this trope with Dean, Gabriel, Balthazar, Soulless Sam, and Human Castiel. Suddenly Crowley was no longer special, he was like everyone else.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, they also gave him some of Human Cas’ stooge traits, i.e. the Stupid Bug. His fumbling with the vending machine reminded me of Human Cas' troubles with the Slurpee machine. I wished I understood the connection between humanity and this kind of mental challenge.
Gripe #2: Hypocrisy alert!
“Look me in the eye and tell me you’re not working with Crowley!”
That was the accusation Dean threw at Castiel back in season 6. Yet when you look closely, back then Castiel was doing the same thing the Winchesters are doing now. He was using Crowley to achieve a goal. And his goal wasn't less noble than Sam and Dean’s current objective. He wanted to stop Raphael from destroying the world he and the Winchesters had fought so hard to save.
If the writers had put a little more thought in the dialogue back then they could have saved the show from this double standard. Instead of accusing Castiel of teaming up with Crowley Dean could have admonished him for lying to them, letting Crowley boss them around like his lackeys, hiding the truth about Sam’s soul from them. Any of those would have been better than “We don't go out and make another deal with the Devil” which would make Sam and Dean look like giant bigots when they turn around and do the same thing three seasons later.
How is this a gripe for season 9? Because even though this elephant exists in the room the writers don’t bother to talk about it. One line from Sam or Dean would have sufficed, one sentence about the irony of their situation paralleling Castiel’s back then and the matter would have been put to rest. But from what I have seen so far, I doubt many of the current writers (or the show runner) remember what happened in the previous seasons, let alone care about its consistency or fairness with regards to new material.
Gripe #3: Where is Castiel?
Speaking of Castiel, where is he? Why is no one wondering where he went or what he is doing? If he doesn't matter to the other major players of the story why the heck is he even on this show?
I could ignore his universal absence in an episode revolving around Garth or Kevin or the Ghostfacers. But now we’re in mythology territory and the Winchesters seem to have found their goal for the season (as much as that goal seems out of step with what came earlier,) and Castiel is nowhere to be found. This bothers me greatly not just because I like him, but because his story now becomes an obstacle instead of a part of the main plot. If the show plans to make the rest of the season about The Mark of Cain and defeating Abaddon, then Castiel in his current function will be a distraction. No one would want to hear more about the irrelevant angel scuffle when it doesn’t involve 2/3rd of the main cast.
A smart show runner would have found a way to involve all the players in the same plot, so that each character’s existence had a purpose on the show. Since I have no faith in this show runner or his group of writers to even bring the stories together I don’t see a resolution in sight and, as a result, I fear Castiel, Metatron, Gadreel and all the rest of the angels and their drama have become pointless.
Gripe #4: 26:12
That is the exact amount of time that passed before something important happened in the episode. Before this time the only thing the characters did was talk.
Sam and Dean talked to each other, to Snookie (Really? Why?) to Crowley, to an antique dealer who had the Blade, to a cop who promoted Windows 8, and to a cougar who was also a museum director. The most exciting event in that long segment was a couple of security guards getting possessed and killed, which is how a Supernatural episode usually starts. I don’t understand why things on the show require so much talk. Couldn’t we make finding the Demon Blade a little more interesting, or a little less complicated so we could get to the more interesting second half of the episode faster?
Gripe #5: Oh Magnus, the way they wrote thee
As said, at 26:12 something magical happens, and we are transported to a secret hideout in a parallel universe. Immediately I’m at the edge of my seat, eager to see all the wonders of this new setting, most specifically who or what Magnus is.
And then we see Magnus, and he is yet another guy in a suit who talks a lot.
Seriously, that was the most exciting they could make this guy and his scenes? Sitting in a chair talking? Tying the Winchesters up and talking some more? As if no other villain has done that before. If there was a debate between the bad guys on the show about the most overused torment they have visited on the Winchesters the competition would be between throwing them at objects and tying them up and talking their ears off.
I usually don’t care much about cliché executions of villain plots. But somehow I put a lot of faith in Magnus - perhaps because he wasn’t just an ordinary bad guy but a Man of Letters – and was really crushed when he turned out the same as everyone else. Full of talk, little action.
And what about his hideout, where he supposedly had a collection of monsters he called his zoo? Where was that? Wouldn't it have been nice to see something of it, like a room full of cages, or a lab full of containers with creatures suspended in glowing fluids? I know that too is done to death but anything would have been better than two vampires and a shape-shifter attacking the intruders and dying in T-0.5 seconds.
Gripe #6: Oh Sam, the way they wrote thee
I said this last time, sometimes I hate the way the writers write my favorite characters because it lessens my fondness of them. It comes either from laziness, or incompetence. The writers don’t take the time to give the characters words and actions that go with their established personality traits and the characters become OOC.
Sam has been a lot of things in the past, but a jerk and an idiot weren't it. The way Sam behaved at the end of the episode was arguably both. First he holds the blade in his own hand, when he knows Dean is the only one who can use it. Then he tells Dean – in perfect detail, not just hints and gestures – what they should do with Crowley now that they “got the blade.” Meanwhile Crowley is standing two steps behind him. They might as well had him turn around and tell Crowley, “Dude, you’re now useless to us so we’re going to kill you?” What did he think Crowley would do?
Aside from that, didn't Crowley just save both their hides? I know they have no reason to care for the guy and more than enough reasons to kill him, but couldn’t they make an exception just this once? I’d like to think there is a secret code of honor among hunters that excludes demons who risk their lives to save them. It befits Sam and Dean to be that noble.
If I had written the scene, I would have made Sam and Dean hesitate about killing Crowley. He had just rescued them from Magnus and the debt they felt because of that act conflicted with their common sense. I would have made that the weakness which lost them the blade, honor instead of sheer stupidity. Perhaps one could still blame them for not acting fast and securing their advantage, but at least it would be gallant and produce respect in the audience instead of eye roll.
In closing, I'd like to add that I fear Carver is doing the same thing this season that he did in season 8. Once again the first half of the season might have little to do with the second half. Now that we have Abaddon as the main Winchester concern, and the Mark of Cain/Blade as their weapon of choice, I could picture all their attention being on that. Yet we spent more than 11 episodes on Gadreel and what an evil SOB he was, to the point of actively despising him. Compared to him Abaddon is a champ. True she is capable of great destruction and must be stopped, but we don’t have any personal vendetta against her, nothing we have experienced firsthand, and that is one of the most important things when creating a villain: to give the audience an opportunity to feel their vileness.
The only reason I didn’t include this in the gripes is because I’m still waiting to see what they plan to do with these two seemingly disjointed stories. How would they resolve making the Winchesters’ main concern a lying, scheming, evil angel for the first half of the season then turn them around in the second half and point them toward Abaddon. Hopefully there’s a good explanation behind it all which we will soon find out.
As always, your comments and opinions are most welcome.