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Supernatural – Season 10 Episode 21 – The Gripe Review

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Hello SPN fans and welcome to the I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened Gripe Review.

Of course I’m talking about Charlie. After writing a full review about how much of a pet-character and author avatar she was, and making speculations about how they might make her a regular next season, this episode came out of nowhere. As you may know, I try to remain spoiler free when watching Supernatural, partly so that my judgment doesn’t get clouded before I actually watch an episode. Because of this I had no warning this was supposed to happen, and right up to the last scene was expecting a different outcome.

Though I admit I breathed a sigh of relief after they showed Charlie’s body - I was convinced she would be kidnapped and the last episodes of the season would be spent on her rescue – by no means did I consider the ending satisfactory. In fact it was just one more pointless plot twist added to the pile of random nonsense that made up this episode. I may have gotten excited if Charlie’s death had served a purpose and improved the nonexistent main storyline of the season. But the only fallout I could think coming from it is Dean getting angrier and killing more bad guys (which I’m sure will be painted as him deteriorating beyond repair) and Sam becoming the guilt pony. On top of it, considering how ridiculously contrived and entirely avoidable Charlie’s death was, it should be obvious why I can’t see any light at the end of this insane, bloody tunnel.

Well, maybe a tiny light. At least for those of us who could see through her hero-to-everyone persona and recognize the Mary Sue behind it, it means she won’t come back next season in a larger capacity and as a permanent staple. I have heard that producer Jim Michaels has claimed no one ever dies permanently on Supernatural. Still the promos give me hope that, even if they decide to bring her back, it would be in a much smaller scope, most likely as a ghost or apparition. Even if she came back as the smartest, most powerful, most awe-inspiring ghost of all time she won’t be staying for too long, won't be toting her Surface tablet, and definitely won't get praised as “the smartest person in the room." To be all that one needs a pulse, and my guess is she permanently lost hers.

Even after so much talk about Charlie my biggest gripe for this episode isn't even her, but the writers' new pet project, the completely ludicrous, prematurely hatched threat of the Stynes.

#1 – Who are the Stynes again?

This question was asked repeatedly by a poster in a forum episode discussion thread, even though we were told about the Stynes in episode 19 where they hunted Charlie for a book that gave them superpowers.

Mild interest was all I felt for the Stynes as I watched that episode. I listened to their background story for why they were after the book and didn't think much of it beyond an obligatory obstacle in achieving the episode's ultimate goal. They were there to lend tension to an otherwise slow plot about three people holed up in a room trying to decipher a piece of ancient text. No way did I think of them as a huge conglomerate power structure that would require the Winchesters to step in and stop them. Why should I when there wasn't even a hint about them in the entire decade of the show? Even the Leviathans had a better build up and they literally sprang out of nowhere.

Except, in this episode, Buckner and Ross-Leming took the idea and spun it into a behemothic Big Bad. Suddenly we find out the Stynes were instrumental in aiding Hitler. I thought the Thule Society covered that, according to 8x13. Guess we stumbled on yet another example of Supernatural rewriting its own history.

But it goes further than that. The captive Styne paints a picture that makes the family look like the Freemasons, the Koch brothers and Al-Qaeda all wrapped in one. I couldn't make out everything he said but from what I heard he was name-dropping such important events as 911, the economic crash, and the Arab Spring, hanging them from a string which had his family name attached to it.

I hesitate to bring up fanfiction again, but yet another mark of amateur writers dwelling in that medium is to connect their characters to milestone incidents and important personalities just to give them the weight and value their stories fail to provide. There would be a guy for example who has done absolutely nothing important in the plot, yet we should respect him because he was single-handedly responsible for bringing down the Soviet Union.

I'm Not saying one shouldn't tie their fictional characters to real events. What I'm saying is if you do, or plan to expand them to be global shadow governments, you might want to spend a little time building them up in your narrative first and not spring them on the viewers in the final few episodes like mad conspiracy theorists talking about the Illuminati. Trust me, if you do that, I might believe you, but about as much as I believe those funny tin-hatters.

#2 – Forget who they are, why are the Stynes so uninteresting?

Even if I was willing to bend logic and history in order to accept the Stynes as the Death Star overlords they claim to be, the presentation disappoints. We see a glimpse of the family patriarch and his offspring in one scene and it looks like a bad audition for a Dixie Godfather remake. They seem to be competing for who gets away with a stronger twang. The acting is so unconvincing and over-the-top all it needs is a couple of handle bar mustaches and boiler hats. Worse, all the sons and nephews of the guy look like they came out of the same assembly line, which could be intentionally hinting at in-breading, or a goofy idea by the casting director who perhaps thought he was casting for a Levi's commercial.

Bottom line is, for the amount of danger and importance this episode placed on this family I found out very little about them and what I found out didn't impress me. I don't know why Carver decided to try Leviathans 2.0 when the idea failed the first time. Sadly the farther the show goes the more suspicious I get that these writers live in a vacuum and know nothing about each others' scripts from last week, let alone scripts from previous seasons.

#3 – There isn’t a part of this that doesn’t reek.

I can't believe I'm agreeing with Charlie here, but Sam's idea of putting Charlie and Rowena in the same room made absolutely no sense, which means the writers' whole premise for this episode was a washout. Why did the two of them have to be in one place when it was obvious neither would voluntarily share information with the other? If they were estranged sisters and this was Sam's ploy to bring them together I might have understood. But Rowena was a prisoner. He was lucky she didn't turn Charlie into a toad the first chance she got, restricted powers or not. At the very least she could have used her to execute an escape plan, which I think is what she did. Putting a defenseless civilian in the same room as Rowena and expecting them to work together was the Guinness World Record equivalent of stupid moves.

The scenario would have been at least amusing if they had infused it with funny, clever dialogue. Sadly we only hear them talk to each other once, and it's the tired you're-not-so-different-from-me rant we've heard a million times from the villains on the show. It also would have helped if they actually showed how being together helped solving the case, but the only thing we saw was Rowena going about her own ancient rituals and Charlie doing the exact same thing she did last time, running a software for image comparisons. It even looked like she solved the mystery on her own at the end, making me question the logic behind bringing her and Rowena together other than what I wrote down in gripe #5.

#4 – I’ve had it with the mother&@#$ Surface on this mother&@#$ show.

I have no problem with product placement. I just consider it as part of the universe and move on. Even though every character driving a Ford one season, then simultaneously switching to BMWs in the next is laughably improbable, it's not something I would dwell on.

...except when it clashed with plot and character profiles. The biggest offender on Supernatural (on current TV really) is Microsoft's Surface tablet. Previously we saw Charlie use it to hack into a 1940's vacuum tube computer, something that was implausible even if she'd used a custom made Linux machine with exponential processing powers.

This episode it (pardon the pun) surfaced again. Charlie the top notch hacker apparently uses nothing but the Microsoft tablet for her above-the-cut, super smart hactivities. And just in case you tried to justify it by assuming she replaced the operating system with a custom-coded, dual-boot, dos based OS they make a point of showing her open the cheerful Windows 8 screen, on app mode no less, and scroll happily away.

This is silly. It's also an insult to my intelligence as someone who knows a thing or two about computers and hacking. To show a hacker use a device like the Surface and an operating system like Windows 8 is like having an award winning National Geographic photographer pull up an Instax to take photos. It tells me the show runner either doesn't know anything about professional photography or is such a slave to corporate money he is willing to sacrifice plot/character integrity for a little on the side.

#5 – All the absurd contrivances leading to Charlie’s death (Or how everyone is stupid and Cas has no powers.)

Here is why I don't care about Charlie's death one way or another. It's something I call the Divergent Stratagem. Like in the plot of the last book of that series, where everything artificially led the main character to a certain fate, the plot of this episode is ridiculously contrived to have Charlie die in the end. This means the entrapment of all characters in decisions that make no sense, nor are in character for them, for the sole purpose of reaching that particular conclusion.

Here's how it goes down: Sam insists Rowena and Charlie work together instead of working as an intermediary between them. Dean chains a human in a devil's trap by one hand, leaving the other hand free so he could escape. He leaves the room to find Sam but forgets to lock the door, only to come back and find the human vaporized into thin air. Castiel leaves Charlie alone who also vaporizes and shows up at an isolated motel where no one could reach her in time. She also tells no one about her whereabouts, perhaps because she gets hit over the head and forgets they are her bodyguards not her jailers.

The Stynes, who previously were tracking Charlie down through her possession of the book, and lost her after she dropped it, are now suddenly able to find her. Castiel on the other hand, who is a fully powered angel, has no clue where she is. When the Winchesters finally find her it's because she calls them, when it's already too late and the villain is at her doorstep. In the only logical piece of dialogue in the entire sequence, Dean tells Charlie to hand over everything she has to the guy and run away, to which she responds by doing the exact opposite. Even though the data was already uploaded and in the hands of the Winchesters, and there was nothing of value on her tablet except that one piece of information about how to remove the MoC, she decides to destroy it. Then she takes out a knife and stands there facing her killer like a trapped chicken.

In a previous episode we saw Charlie take on two of the Stynes - one armed with a gun - and get away with a minor gunshot wound. This time she can't defend herself  against a guy short an arm. It might be because - in a previously stupid move - she ran into the washroom where there are no escape routs. The guy with the bloody stump, who a few scenes ago was chastised for leaving a body behind, kills her and leaves her body behind.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say with that many unlikely twists and turns, let alone all the moronic actions performed by previously sane people, this resembles more a farce than the plot of an episode. If this was real life the chances of Charlie dying in this manner would have been less than the probability of her winning the lottery jackpot. She would have sooner fallen through one of the massive plotholes on her way to that motel room than died at the hands of the one armed Styne. And let's not forget, this isn't the first time she died on the show. Last time Castiel brought her back before the Winchesters could suppress a gasp, and he wasn't even at full power because he was using borrowed grace. This time though, for no reason other than Charlie needing to die, he is incapable of resurection.

Edit: I was told it was actually Gadreel who brought Charlie back. It still doesn't change the fact that angels have been show to bring humans back to life even when at half their celestial capacity.

#6 – How is this thing different than that thing last year?

Remember season 9? In the beginning Sam was dying and Dean made a deal with Ezekiel/Gadreel to save him but kept it a secret from Sam. This secret led to a lot of bad things, including the death of an ally and close friend, Kevin. This caused Sam to get angry and Dean to feel guilty.

This season Dean was in trouble and Sam made a deal with Rowena behind Dean's back, then made a load of bad decisions that ultimately led to Charlie's death. Now I'm no psychic but I'm guessing what will follow is Dean getting angry and Sam feeling guilty. I guess the SPN company line is, if it's not broken, repeat until the audience get well and truly sick of it, the repeat some more.

Kudos: This hilarious exchange between Dean and Castiel

Despite the overall let-down of this episode there was one scene that made me laugh out loud. The phone call between Dean and Castiel that Sam was supposed to pick up.

I played this scene over and over just to watch Castiel's face when he said, "This call is pointless." It was a throwback to the old days of confused, awkward Castiel, angel of the Lord on a moped, personal space issues, and "the voice tells me I'm almost out of minutes!" I miss those days and with this skit, Misha reminded me of them. Those were the times when SPN comedy wasn't reliant on bodily functions or slobbering over nuns and college girls, and writing gripe reviews for the show's excellent episodes was close to impossible.

This got a little long so without further talk I leave the stage to you and take my leave. As always, please use the comment section bellow to let me know what you think.


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