I have a lot to say about this one, but before I wax lyrical and compose my Ode To Baby, I wanted to say thank you to those folks who keep coming back, reading, and commenting. I know that into the 11th season of Winchesters, some may have thinning patience with repeated behavior patterns, or disappointment in plot lines/holes, or a head-shaking, eye-rolling level of seriously?! with the way the writers choose to have to boys communicate (or not communicate, more than likely), but even if you're just a casual watcher, there is something about this show and these brothers that becomes...well, family.
Not everyone has the same connotation with the word family. For some of us, it's a hotbed of angst and heartache and drama and hurt and not a little disappointment, but we are still connected, and there are those moments of magic where need and/or memories unite us. For others, family is a safe haven, a place of identity and security and where you know you'll never be alone. And then there are those who are fortunate enough to have a blend of both in our lives. SPN has become a blend of both for me, and I'd hazard a guess the same is true for many who wander through these Rambles.
There was a noticeable drop in comments last episode (and believe me, you were missed - all of you). I know that could be for a number of reasons: schedules, I posted on a Friday instead of a Thursday (though, I need to warn you, that's going to happen more often than not this year; I can't stay up to the wee hours on a school night and still function like I used to...and as it turns out, my job actually expects me to function...I know, right?!), or you were just underwhelmed by the first 3 episodes. I actually got quite a few notes to the latter; they were done with the show, they just couldn't engage anymore, etc. I totally respect that, even if it is hard to hear from some. This show has brought me so many friends--a few who have become my very best, who have shown me how to be a better version of myself--because of this show, that to have them no longer be interested feels a bit like a loss of one of the strings that originally bound us.
I've been watching SPN since day 1, season 1 (and I honestly had no idea what I was getting into as I literally stumbled across it while flipping channels and saw Lawrence, KS, 22 Years ago at the bottom of the screen and thought okay, weird, I'm living here and was thus caught in the web). After 11 years of fighting monsters where each season tries to outdo the last in The Big Bad factor, I understand that it can start to feel stale, overdone, tired. It's hard to maintain the same level of emotional investment 11 years on when you can so clearly see ploys used to stretch out the plot or lower budgets creating less-impactful settings. Part of me wishes they had shorter seasons (ala The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy, Daredevil, Orange is the New Black ;)) so that they could cut the fat and tighten up the plot and punch us in the gut every week with the Plight of the Winchesters.
But then? We might miss out on gems like 11.04 - Baby. And it was a gem, folks. It was every reason I've stayed invested in our show. I told someone last week that I had basically divested myself of emotional involvement around the end of Season 5. I just couldn't keep allowing this show to affect my emotions to the degree I had before. And I think that's a lot of the reason I have been able to keep writing these Rambles (nine years of them) and find the enjoyment and be entertained. I find what I like, I call out what I don't, I move on. And I honestly feel like this episode was a reward for that.
Before I get into the actual rambley part of this Ramble, I want to share one more thing with you. My friend borgmama1of5 shared this vid Wednesday morning and watching it I could only think, yes. this. this is why I started watching, why I keep watching. these brothers are my anchor to the show and keep me navigating any of the hand waving ridiculousness. That's pretty powerful to have that impact still after going on 11 straight years of watching a show. [Plus also, the vidder used one of my favorite artists, Sleeping At Last. Check out their album Atlas: Year One. Amazing.]
If you liked it, give the vidder some love.
OKAY! Onward to, in Chuck's words, the most important object in the universe.
The way this story was told was brilliant. Having the camera stay within the Impala until the very last shot was beautiful. And we never missed a thing, we still saw the whole story play out and it made sense. Things like the hairpin for Dean's cuffs and the pennies from the Hello Kitty purse were left in a way that flowed, wasn't choppy, and was exceedingly entertaining. The opening shot was poetic: hearing the sound of a train on tracks (road sounds, traveling, what a car might gravitate to as normal if a car were telling the story...as she was here), then panning to the toy soldier stuck in the ashtray and the Legos in the air vent sending us into a sigh of nostalgia. But then, the SW and DW carved into a blood-splattered dash, broken glass all around, a blood covered window, the rear window shot out all ratchet up the tension and we see Dean--bruised and battered and unconscious, cuffed and sprawled on the back seat of his beloved Impala.
It was like the aftermath of a home invasion.
I am a sucker for those stories (written or visual) where they show you chaos, then take you back a bit to tell you how it got to that stage, as we did here. The way this was written, we got all the information we needed in a brief exchange between the brothers while Dean (apparently wearing SHORTS--whaaaa?? Pictures or it didn't happen, dude.) is washing the Impala. I loved how Sam just stepped in and grabbed the sponge, too. It was so natural it put an instant smile on my face. Basically, they had bumbkis as far as The Darkness and Metatron were concerned, but Cas was healing, so that was good. Dean shrugged off his still-healing bruises, but was glad that Cas was improving. With a serious case of Cabin Fever coming on, both are fine to check out Sam's "thin" lead in OR.
Their continued exchange of "probably nothing" regarding the case reminded me of Lethal Weapon's same application of those words...right before a drug dealer's house blew up in front of them, so I figured...this was definitely something. I loved that it rained just after Dean had washed the car. And Dean's "figures" expression. I loved that they kept Cas involved via the phone, because it made sense that they'd not only check on his well being but also need him to be their researcher while they were checking out their "thin" lead. I loved the banter--which I will detail in my lists below--and that while Dean entered the Roadhouse where "mistakes were made", Sam was getting busy in the backseat. That was so...natural. I mean, really, they're in their 30's, single, hot as hell, there's no way Sam is this perfect little researching angel all the time and never...well, you saw it, too. You know.
And they used Bob Seger, guys. Bob. Freaking. Seger. I don't know how many times I've dipped into that classic rock well in my fanfics. And it was perfection. Dean teasing Sam, lipsyncing, then Sam joining in to actually sing, only change the words around a bit to fit the circumstance. That whole scene after was completely fantastic as the boys talked -- did you catch that? They. Actually. Talked. -- and ate and laughed and gave each other a good-natured hard time ("...hands off the wheel!" "You're not even looking at the road!")
I liked that we got some forward movement with the arc through Sam's dream/vision of his dad and through the boys' realizing that even the monsters were afraid of The Darkness...just going to prove my "all of us against her" theory from last week. But I also liked that we didn't have to focus on the arc to be entertained by this story. Their "thin" lead turned out to be an actual something and the only reason this monster bumped their radar was because of The Darkness. In the last 100 years, he'd turned 3 people. But in the last month or so...he'd turned 16. That'll get you noticed by Sam's google-fu. Cas played Bobby's role a bit with this one, providing the lore and how to kill it, and I couldn't help but wonder what Bobby would have thought about Dean's creative "werepire" and "ghoulpire" names. I remember the thing that it wasn't was called a 'whisper' but I can't actually remember the name of the thing it was. Ghoulpire worked okay for me.
Before I go to my lists, I'm going to capture my three favorite scenes (which is hard to narrow down in an episode filled with meaty goodness).
First, The Talk. I loved the way they were positioned: Sam in back, Dean in front, heads propped against opposite sides so that they could see each other. I liked that Sam finally opened up about praying and about being infected and I liked that while Dean was disappointed he wasn't angry. If anything, he was resigned. Which isn't a good thing, exactly, but it's definitely in character. After all they've been through and kept from each other, he's come to expect it. And of course it was a secret that had Sam hurt or in danger and not only had Dean not been able to help him (again), he can't do anything but accept that there will probably be consequences (again). So, yeah, resignation is pretty much his only play here.
I also really liked how they each responded to the idea of God helping them. Sam has always wanted to believe. He's always been the one to have faith, even when Lucifer was screaming in his head. He sees the light in the world through all the darkness and that hasn't changed with this. No one told him to pray; that was all him. So as a result, these visions and cryptic messages in the form of tortured images and his father offering Aesopian proverbs is clearly God in his eyes. Dean, however, has always needed proof. He's had a bad taste in his mouth about angels since before Zachariah, and since that time all he's seen of Heaven and its populace has been anger and retribution and pain and suffering (with the exception of Cas, though his actions haven't always helped put a good spin on Heaven, either). He was told that God left and all the angst he felt about John's treatment of him in his youth was immediately transferred to God. He is not capable of taking anything on faith. If God is going to step in and help, He's going to have to do much more to convince Dean than showing up disguised as young John Winchester in his brother's dreams.
One thing I have to say about that vision, though, is that the phrase, "The Darkness is coming..." had me immediately flashing to Game of Thrones and "Winter is coming." It had that same ominous connotation and mysterious warning.
Second, The Fight. That whole fight with Dean, Mrs. Markham, the Alpha Ghoulpire, and the Impala was amazing. They beat each other to hell--and showed the wounds! There was blood! And bruising! It felt real. You couldn't see what was going on every second, the moves weren't telegraphed two seconds before every hit. It was messy and desperate and the Impala hit back and got hit as well. She was a wreck. In a real fight, you don't try to win; you try to make the other guy lose. And that's what this was -- especially from Dean. He got his ass kicked but good. And every little thing from Sam's backseat tango with the waitress to the valet girl and her friend joy riding came into play when Dean found himself cuffed and wounded in the backseat. I loved how it all came together like that. And I loved Dean's heartfelt, broken apology to the Impala when it was over and he and his Baby were both battered. *rubs heart*
Third, Bob Seger. I know I mentioned it above, but I loved it so much I have to call it out again. Using "Night Moves" to tease Sam was not only a perfect selection for Dean to choose, but that smokey, road-rough, bar-voice of Seger's just fit the whole concept of telling the story from the Impala's perspective. It fit them and that scene in every way. And the continuation of the scene with them singing and such just...yeah. I loved every bit of it. This moment more than anything helped us see that the boys were getting back on track, healing their rift(s) and figuring out how to just be brothers again. It's muscle memory to them, just being together, breathing for the other one, but sometimes they forget and sometimes they stop on purpose and this "milk run" of a case was just them getting back in the groove and being around each other and remembering how much they liked it.
Plus it had me flashing back to a nice childhood memory of the whole family (all 7 of us) on a roadtrip, us kids begging Dad to put on some rock music (during the era of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard) and him coyly plugging in a cassette that immediately belted out Bob Seger's, "Like a Rock." My dad got a big kick out of us groaning at how cheesy he was. However, looking back, he was right. That was real "rock music."
The only negative thing I'll say about this episode is that...if this is supposed to showcase how things are with the boys in their hours and hours and hours and hours on the road, then they should remember that for all other episodes from this point forward. Nothing we can do looking back except hand-wave and write fanfic. But the way they have them leave Place A and travel to Place B that is--at minimum--a few hours away and don't have them bring up whatever is the Really Big Deal Of The Moment until they arrive at Place B? Come on. They could easily cover that in a more natural way that doesn't require us being shown the conversation happen, but being alerted to the fact that whichever brother was in the dark now knows.
ANYway. That's a minor nit looking ahead, and just one of those things that has me arching my eyebrows in the collective writer's general direction. Okay, lists!
What I liked:
- The way they painted the opening scene.
- Using Bread's "Guitar Man" while Dean washed the Impala.
- Dean's expression looking out at the rain, just after he washed the car.
- Boys telling Cas to rest, heal, and watch Netflix.
- "Swayze wouldn't come to this place." "Never take Swayze's name in vain."
- "In there, good times. Time heals all wounds, Sam. Especially good times."
- "Mistakes were made."
- 'Piper' sitting up in the back of the Impala and Dean's mix of surprise/impressed as he works to extricate himself from the car while Sam...um...cleans things up.
- The fact that Sam put a blanket down in the back seat. Ever the gentleman.
- Bob Seger.
- "It's Sam."
- "...in the back seat of my brother's '67 Chevy..."
- "Hands off the wheel."
- "You're finally not a virgin anymore."
- "We've got tonight; who needs tomorrow?" "Is everything a Bob Seger song to you?" "Yes."
- "Man, she smelled good, too."
- Seeing Matt Cohen as young John Winchester. Especially after having seen his 12-year-old-like energy and effervescence at con's, and the way he goes around and hugs everybody (I mean everybody), seeing him as sedate, measured John Winchester, doing an impressive Jeffery Dean Morgan impersonation, was great.
- Sam telling Dean the truth when he woke up.
- "Whoa. Pump the brakes."
- The fact that Dean knows the Bible well enough to know that, "God helps those who help themselves," is not anywhere in it. Not only that, he knew it came from Aesop's fables. I love when they have Dean expose how smart he is.
- Dean talking about the repeated dream he has of John teaching him to drive. "Not little, like I was when he taught me, but 16." And how Sam was in the back seat and they pulled up to the "family house." Dreaming about a normal life.
- "You don't have a history of listening to Dad."
- "'night, Jerk." "'night, Bitch."
- Werepire...and ghoulpire.
- The two girls pulling a Ferris Bueller valet maneuver with the Impala. With Dean being non-the-wiser (though it would have been funny if he'd looked at the gas tank or something).
- "Step away from the Netflix." "Sorry." "It's okay; we've all had a binge." True that.
- Cas talking away on speaker phone while Dean battles with the Alpha Ghoulpire.
- "Turns out I did shoot the deputy."
- Dean using the windshield wipers to clear the Impala's hood of the still-chomping Alpha head. That? Was classic.
- The head in the cooler.
- Dean: "Cas, tell me you got something that doesn't involve chicks in prison." Sam: "HA! Bet you never thought you'd say that out loud."
- Sam knowing that they had to use a penny minted before 1982 because of the copper content. *pets his brain*
- Dean going from reassuring Mrs. Markham that she's okay by putting the cooler in the trunk to realizing that Mrs. Markham is a ghoulpire.
- Dean and Markham's fight, coupled with Sam shooting out the back window of the Impala when he realizes that Markham is taking off with his brother.
- Dean picking his cuffs with Piper's hair pin.
- The Impala brawl with Dean and the two ghoulpire's.
- The fact that Dean looked like he'd been in a brawl -- blood and bruises everywhere. Yay for semi-realistic outcomes!
- Dean causing the Impala to crash so that he can save his brother. That car has been through the (very literal) wringer for these boys.
- Dean using the pennies found in the Hello Kitty purse to kill the Alpha and then immediately joining forces with the now-human-again Markham to rescue her kids and his brother.
- "Oh, Baby, I'm so sorry."
- Kissing the dash when the car finally starts.
- Dean reverse-180 power sliding the Impala. Holy smokes.
- Dean: "We're gonna end this thing, now." Sam: [wince] "Mind starting tomorrow?"
- Dean: "Get Cas to fix you up." Sam: "Only if he fixes you up, too." Good for you, Sam. Because I get why Dean wouldn't allow himself to be healed before when Cas beat him up, but this is totally different. And he is wrecked. Healing is in order.
- "We are home."
- "There's my girl."
Yeah, I got nothing. Anything I'd put here would be unnecessary nit-picking. I think, basically, Robbie Thompson was like, you want the brothers back? Here you go.
Adding on to my other plot-driven, Darkness-oriented questions, the only two things I can come up with at this point are:
- Is it God who is trying to help the boys through Sam's visions/dreams? Or is it someone else, Lucifer, for example. The version of John told Sam everything he wanted to hear, right down to "never wanted this life for you boys," and turning out okay was on them, not him. NO clue how Lucifer would be doing this from the Cage, but...just throwing ideas out there. I am willing to bet, though, that they will be unspooling the question of who is helping them--or if they are, in fact, helping--at least to mid-season sweeps.
- What is going to be the compelling event that will force Sam to tell Dean about Billie the Reaper and the fact that when they die, there's only Emptiness awaiting them (unless something changes)?