Sushi for Twelve, $482 plus delivery f Supernatural – Episode 10.07 – The Gripe Review

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Supernatural – Episode 10.07 – The Gripe Review

First allow me to apologize for not posting a review last week. I was out of town for work and didn’t  get to watch the episode until later in the weekend.

This week I had a different problem, anxiety over the subject matter of the new episode. The title and the promos made it sound like  another misogyny fare along the same lines of 9.08. Imagine my surprise when I finally sat down to watch and got a mythology episode instead.

This episode was leaps and bounds better than the last three. The writing was stronger (heads up Robert Berens) and it concluded two of the dangling storylines, thus moving the so far stagnant plot marginally forward. It also revealed the reason I so far have been underwhelmed with season 10, something I like to call "The Story of Others.” I'll get to it in Gripe #2.

Gripe #1 - The Title

As I said, the title of this episode threw me off and made me reluctant to watch it. Supernatural has had a long history of mishandling its female characters and since Carver has come along - with the  exception of Sheriff Jody Mills - the show has constantly marginalized them to either villains or sex objects. The success of Sheriff Mill's character should have been a clue to the writers that people like female characters who are treated like humans, not vehicles to remind us the boys still have libidos.

But back to the title, that's another plague that has struck our beloved show in recent years. When in the past the titles of episodes used to be adaptations of classic rock songs, or classic movies, recently they resemble punchlines to jokes. I fail to understand why this episode was called something that fits better as a neon sign above a strip joint. The "girls" part of the episode was mostly fluff, perhaps a ruse to draw more male viewers to a show that is inarguably devoid of women. To call it after that was either to throw us off - running the risk of also alienating us - or a tired attempt to remind us there are indeed females in the Supernatural universe (if for no other reason than sex) and that the boys' manly urges aren't on sabbatical.

Gripe #2 - Sam and Dean and the stories of others

Here is the big one, and where the season has failed me. While season 8 made me angry for misrepresenting Sam, and season 9 did the same with Dean, this season has just been…there. Even the mythology episodes produce no emotional response in me, except perhaps boredom. After this episode I at least know why.

The main characters for whom I watch the show are not players in their own stories, they play supporting roles in other people's stories.

Since the Demon Dean storyline was resolved Sam, Dean and Castiel have been chasing various plots. While those plots  keep them tied up, if one pays close attention they would realize that in none of them the stakes are actually stacked against them. Since the beginning of the season Castiel has been a support character in Hannah's story (a fact that became evident in this episode, then promptly changed thanks to all the TV gods,) while Sam and Dean have been touring random story land.

Even in season 1, a season mostly comprised of one-off stories, the central storyline of the show - the spine that the entire season was attached to - was a Winchester story. Their missing father had to be found and the Yellow Eyed Demon had to be stopped. This main plot underscored every fluff story they stuffed into that season.

What about this season? Let's look at what the boys have been doing since Dean was freed of his demon curse. They helped Kate with her sharp toothed sibling problem, watched a high school musical, went to a party of Bobby's relatives, grappled with a witch and had a throw down with Cole. The only storyline that remotely resembled mythology was the witch one, and based on what we saw in the last bit of this episode, that isn’t a Winchester story either, it’s Crowley’s.

Will the Winchesters get tangled with it in some way in the future? Considering Rowena got away I'd say it’s a possibility. But also considering how quick this season has been wrapping up its plots, and how unlikely it seems to make Rowena's story emotionally connected to the brothers, and more than a witch hunt, I don't see a Sam and Dean suffused future for this season any time soon.

Of course there is always the possibility to lightswitch things by dousing Sam with another bucket of Hellhound juice, or giving Dean another mark on top of the dormant one he already has, to create a newly minted Winchester mythology without much buildup. But would that really resonate with viewers as much as a season long storyline would? Or would it feel like the showrunners are continually pulling the emotional foothold out from under the viewers' feet and replacing it with another one, then demanding that we care?

Gripe #3 - Rowena's dialogue

Allow me to get my minor gripe with Rowena’s character out of the way before I get to the next major gripe of this season. When Rowena first appeared in this episode I instantly liked her. She gave off a Crowley-esque vibe which the accent accentuated. The actress had a certain pizzazz about her and she played the character with the right mix of quirkiness and evil.

Sadly it got spoiled when her dialogue sloped toward bad exposition. It started when she bemoaned the fact that others had ostracized her as punishment for turning toward dark arts (giving me Harry Potter visions.) This of course was information intended for us, the viewers, not those girls sitting across from her whom I can't find a reason for Rowena to care about.

The other time was when Rowena fled with the brunette to the back alley and, when confronted about leaving the other girl behind, admitted that she didn't give a fig about the blonde and had sacrificed her to get away. What smart villain would say that, except one who aimed to communicate to the viewers just how evil she was? Whenever a character says something that is meant for us instead of the character who's in the scene, we've entered bad exposition territory.

Gripe #4 -The Angel Mythology Snafu

This episode saw the end of Hannah's story, to which I said 'good riddance' because that's one less boot stomping the already ground to goop angel mythology. I don't even know what purpose her character served before this episode. Certainly, for me, her shenanigans to either get into Castiel's pants, or marry him and have his babies, or experience humanity through him, or just add more awkward, unneeded, sexual undertone to a concept that, for all intents and purposes, was completely allergic to it, were becoming irritating.

The show's utter failing of the angel mythology goes beyond Hannah. They addressed the vessel issue this episode and that reminded me how I had pushed it to the back of my mind closet in order to not get ruffled by the latest seasons. However, since this episode brought the subject up, I'm obligated to pull those issues out of the closet and place them on the counter for debate.

First, the mechanics of angel possession. In The Rapture we saw how Castiel had to search for a human vessel that was right for him and who had, due to his pre-emptive devotion to God, the appropriate workings to be coerced. Even then he had to court that vessel for what seemed like a long time in order to get his full consent. Consent has been a key element in angels possessing humans to appear on screen in their skin, an issue that has been largely ignored since Carver took over the show and upended Heaven.

Another issue is the excess of sexual intimation involving angels. When Castiel and his brethren first appeared on the show, they seemed mostly celibate, a trait that seems relevant because most of them looked very uncomfortable in their human suits. There were exceptions like Gabriel and Balthazar, but the fact that they went overboard in their exhibition of sexual prowess hinted it was more performance than anything truly carnal. Personally I prefer to think of angels as asexual because I have a problem with good creatures inhabiting bodies and using them to get jollies. I believe it's obvious why there is no consent in these cases. The initial agreement, as shown in The Rapture, was for the angel to employ the body toward furthering God's cause, not to tumble in hay with each other or another human.

Because of Carver's neglect of most of this I had hand-waved the idea of vessel taking and almost convinced myself that angels came part and parcel with their bodies, or perhaps the humans they possessed died on contact. By addressing it this episode those questions came to surface and now we have no choice but to wonder if all these angels who fell from Heaven deviated from God’s approved possession process and simply took the bodies of those humans by force. Worse, were they using them toward their own sexual pursuits and satisfaction without the human’s consent? If that's true, and if Jimmy Novak is somehow still alive, then Castiel’s misadventures with Meg, April and Hannah suddenly take on a newer, much uglier meaning.

Gripe #5 – “I’m past saving”

Dean says this while guest starring in Cole’s story. Sam hears it and confronts him about it later. I assume this was added so we get emotional and think this episode touched the boys' storyline in some way. There’s just one problem: Dean says this while guest starring in Cole’s story.

This loops back to gripe #2. It’s an emotional declaration from Dean, and even though it is accompanied by Jensen Ackle’s heartbreaking performance, it still lacks the proper effect, because it isn’t connected to or supported by any current storylines. Dean was saved in 10.03. His demon affliction was cured because of the love he shared with his brother and his best friend. Right now, his brother is all right and at his side, and he hasn’t asked about that best friend since. What reason does he have to think he is past saving other than the writers pulling old strings to feed us angst? Yet they seem to have  forgotten that to achieve that emotional punchline you first need to lay the ground work and give your characters something to angst about. You can’t both have your cake and eat it: Spend your time telling stories of secondary and minor characters, then use old dog tricks to make your audience swoon over the main cast.

Kudos: The story of two vessels

It may sound strange that the vessel storyline is both the subject of gripe #4 and that of the kudos. Why did I like it despite all the plot holes it reopened? Because it was a nice piece of continuity to end Hannah’s story and begin Castiel’s new quest. So, ignoring all the plot holes, I am glad the writers chose this path for the two of them, reaching back to old Supernatural mythology instead of pulling something new out of the hat that ran the risk of damaging canon.

Hannah put me through a roller coaster this episode. First I despised her because of the full frontal she subjected Castiel to, then I hated her for putting on a show in front of Caroline’s husband, using the poor woman’s body without her consent to emotionally scar her husband. Until then I’d only considered Hannah a comedic nuisance, but after that I was torn between wanting her to die a gruesome death, and fearing that death because it would most likely result in Castiel moping over her for the rest of the season.

Thankfully none happened. For once the writers chose the actions-have-consequences route. Hannah, as it appeared, did have a shred of humanity in her and felt bad about what she had done. This was good storytelling because it involved an internal struggle and meaningful character growth. It was much better than her primary story of falling in love/lust with Castiel for no discernible reason. At least here we could connect her actions to something tangible that had happened: She went against her righteous core and it tormented her so much she decided to make it right at the cost of losing her physical body. Moreover she triggered an internal conflict in Castiel that propelled him toward a quest of his own, causing more continuity to roll out.

I’m excited to find out what happened to Jimmy’s family. It, along with the mystery of his disappearance, is something the show has brushed under the carpet for five seasons. It is time they dug it up and I sincerely hope they don’t ruin it by making short work of it like everything else this season. It will be a good story for Castiel now he's seemingly stuck in his own story lane till the end of the series, or end of Carver’s reign, whichever comes first.

Now if Sam and Dean could also get their own story before the end of the series.

Don’t forget to comment. Thank you as always for reading my review and sharing your thoughts and ideas with me.