Okay, do you remember that scene in the movie Hook with Robin Williams where grown up Peter Pan gets caught and tossed around by the Lost Boys until one of them--the littlest one, it seems--stands before the kneeling Peter and starts to kind of smush all the extra adult skin on his cheeks back until his little eyes light up and he breathes, "There you are, Peter!"?
I had a moment like that with our Show during this episode. And the rest of the time I just watched with a sense of disconnected observation. Now, maybe it's because I'm currently--and for the first time in a long time--writing an original Supernatural fanfic and my perception is slanted by the timeframe and headspace the boys are in during the story. I can see that being a possibility for my disenchantment this time around (though I've written many fanfics while watching and I can't remember that happening before). Given that, I'm going to start with my "Peter Pan" moment and build out from there in order to find the good in this episode as I've always strived to do each time.
I know this opinion may be in the minority and that many of you out there probably thought very differently than I did. I am usually able to see the positive in every episode, so if you saw things differently and you can help me spin the positive, I would love to hear from you.
I've been on a bit of a rollercoaster with the whole Dean + Amara connection storyline. I really think they could have done so much more with that, but they just laid it at our feet for us to accept and allowed us to infer our own interpretation of danger or emotional turmoil. I never really felt any chemistry between Dean and Amara when they were together. I felt curiosity from her and confusion and confliction from him, but I never really sensed they were drawn to each other, despite being told that several times. One of the only times I really felt true angst about this connection was when Dean confessed to Sam that he couldn't kill her and would need Sam to do it. He was truly torn up about that fact and we felt it.
The moment Amara stumbled into that abandoned warehouse/factory thing--beat to hell and looking terrible (I mean, did they burn off her eyebrows because yikes!)--and she looked at Dean with an et tu, Brute expression and Dean was drawn inexorably toward her, his first instinct to help, stopping only when Sam's strong arm moved across him...yeah, then I recognized our Show. That's the emotional angle that usually magnetizes me.
They didn't expand upon this relationship, this connection, like they could have. In this episode, it was used as a punchline, as a reason to set Dean on the sidelines, and as a reason to put Sam in the kind of danger they should have learned their lesson from already. They didn't play on the angle that Amara couldn't let Dean be hurt any more than he could kill her like they could have. I felt it was intriguing in concept and anemic in execution.
But in that moment, and after the big God-blast when Dean is lying against the metal grate that he bent with his body when he was thrown there asking hoarsely, "Amara, what did you do?", our Show remembered that Dean is a character with layers and depth and emotions that drive him forward. He may be black and white where Sam is shades of gray, but Dean operates on the fuel of his emotions whether he recognizes it outwardly or not. And his need to protect Amara--to not be the one that kills her, to not have her caged up again--was plastered all over his face during the confrontation and aftermath.
If the previews use him as suggested, I might recognize our show then, too. It's not what I'd hoped, of course, but...as I've said before, this is not my story. I'm just invested enough to watch it unfold.
Now, with that, I have to say going from a glowing review for 11.20 to a disappointed review in 11.22 is not like me; I'm usually pretty consistent in finding the good and focusing on that. So if you don't want to read the rest of my thoughts on this and, like me, are hoping the Ramble for 11.23 is more my usual style, stop here and no hard feelings.
For the rest of you (if there is anyone left), I can't generate the energy required to construct my lists today, so I'm just going to literally ramble about the rest of the episode and hope to back in fighting shape come Wednesday.
This episode felt empty to me. Everyone seemed like a caricature of themselves--especially our boys, with the exception of that scene above. And not only that, the God/Amara story line couldn't get out of it's own way to recall 10+ years of canon and character development. I don't like to dissect all the parts that I felt went wrong, but this time, I can't help myself because I want so much more from this Show--specifically because I know they are able to give us so much more!
Having God and Lucifer sit down as though in a therapy session to talk it out while the boys observed semi-quietly from the sidelines was laughable. I mean...God and Lucifer. That should have had lightning bolts and thunder, or at the very least some thrown furniture. But we got Lucifer pouting and saying God was a rotten dad. Okay, maybe I can't get out of my own way, but Lucifer used to be evil. He was creepy and sadistic and he killed without remorse and when you felt yourself seeing things from his side and actually sympathizing with him you wanted to take a Silkwood shower. I don't blame it on the fact that he was actually still Casifer, it was just a really awkward way to find familial forgiveness.
I will say that in their dialog they hit on some things that I've personally found myself thinking before about God...but I'm not Lucifer.
And maybe I could have tilted my head at just the right angle to buy that approach being appropriate for the way this story has gone--I mean, Chuck isn't really a 'thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening' kind of God, is he?--if the boys hadn't been sitting in the background acting like extras in a school play. We talked previously about them being shockingly good at compartmentalizing and Sam being able to look beyond his soul undergoing hundreds of years of torture at the hands of this fallen angel--so much so that his soul literally shattered into multiple pieces--to come to Lucifer's defense is a prime example. But c'mon, writers, at least allow him to look like it was hard for him to do.
I get that Sam tends to focus on the big picture, the greater good, without seeing the price tag attached to himself all that clearly, and he knew they needed God and Lucifer to kiss and make up in order to have a shot at defeating The Darkness, but...it was just so...weak. I've expressed more angst coming to my sister's defense after she stole my favorite pair of jeans. (I mean, they were really cool jeans with a button fly, but...still.) I wanted to ask the writers if they'd watched how Sam suffered in seasons 7 and 8...how he willing put himself through those damn Trials just to try to close the gates of Hell. If they had, would they have written such a vanilla line as, "All Lucifer wants is an apology?"
Dean's throwaway remark about apologies being just words and that he lies all the time and says he's sorry to Sam was clearly injected for a sense of comic relief and a mediocre attempt at breaking tension that wasn't there to begin with...but it was also not exactly well-placed. I thought we'd gotten past all of that already. Sigh.
I did think it was somewhat clever--and rather Tolkien of them--to have the battle against Amara be waged by God, The Fallen Angel, witches, and demons. I mean, talk about a motley crew. That had a lot of awesome potential. I just wish that had been given a bit more build up and screen time. So much of it was scrambled together and propped up on us trusting that things happened off-screen that we may as well have not even bothered. There were some lines that caught my ear, though. Rowena telling Sam she would turn him into an actual Moose. Dean bringing Crowley out of his melancholy by reminding him that being a good general meant being a good soldier. Castiel revealing that sharing space with Lucifer was burning through his vessel.
And I liked how they all divvied up to convince the respective parties to play ball. And how the plan almost worked. I mean everyone did their part admirably, including Crowley's red smoke demon delivering the blow that finally took Amara down to the mats. Well, everyone, that is, except Chuck.
But before I get there, I want to talk about one more oh, come on scene: that side-swipe to Dean's protective walls nod between Chuck and Sam where it's revealed that Sam would take the Mark. Without talking to Dean about it first. Now, I get it, okay? I get that Dean had said he couldn't kill Amara and needed Sam to do it. But he was talking about killing her. Making her be no more. Not caging her up and turning his brother into the same lock that burned him up from the inside out and turned him into a demon. I mean, really, guys? You don't think that's a little different? And maybe Dean might take issue with it?
To have Sam argue that this is how he's doing what Dean asked seemed very like him--his logic does tend to take the scenic route at times--but that whole "lock me up where I won't hurt anyone" explanation for what Dean should do when the Mark drives him insane was just.... Because that worked so awesome for you, huh, Sam? I mean, Dean tried that himself and instead of allowing it to happen, you removed the Mark and tore open the world. So, you expect your brother to do it differently, just because he knows the consequences? Yeah, that's fair.
But then...Dean just goes for it? Agrees that they have to do it because it's God's plan? Where did Dean go? That's what I mean by the story line being bigger than the characters. Everyone's so caught up in the fact that God is back and he's on their side and hey, he's going to help them defeat Amara that they lose things that made them who they are for all these years. Dean has died multiple times to keep Sam alive, to give him a chance, and in the space of three lines of dialog he's like, yeah, okay, you're right, God's plan. *shakes head*
So let's get to the fact that we have had a season built on a God-has-a-sister-that-he-caged-and-now-s
And, what's more, she was right about his need to "be big". He admitted she was right--it just wasn't the full story. Which circles right back around to the whole Ying and Yang conversation: the story itself isn't whole without both sides contributing. And I was actually glad Chuck couldn't cage Amara. He'd spent too long Vonnegutting around his creation, living as a human, to not absorb our greatest strength and our greatest weakness: love. He couldn't be the unmerciful ruler that had locked her away a billenia ago; he loved her and she'd once loved him and it was too much.
Buuuuut then the corner they'd written themselves into became just a bit smaller because Amara mortally wounds God and is ready to bring about the end to everything rather than allow anyone to cage her again. Hmmmm. It's not an impossible corner to get out of, but it will probably take some more head tilting, I'd imagine. Like our collective tilt when Chuck said that Amara warded herself against him--leading us to conclude that Chuck was lying since she's been trying to get his attention all season. Or my head tilt when they used poor Donatello to reveal God's location to Amara by getting his soul sucked (which...does that mean there's a soulless prophet wandering around now, or are we going to hand-wave that canon, too?).
This season began really well. It really did -- I was completely entertained through the first 20 episodes, and that's why we watch, after all--to be entertained. The MotW have been well done, the brotherly bonding has been strong, the boys being the boys with minimal secrets and outwardly care enhanced even the rather cut-and-dried episodes. And when they brought God in, I knew it was risky --> I mean, demons are fair game because they're bad and it's the boy's job to defeat them; angels were a little trickier and forced many of us to split our reality from our personal belief about angels and the way angels are depicted on the show; but then you bring God into the mix and you start messing with a lot of varied perceptions and not a little personal bias.
Like I said last week, making God into a character is not without risk and when Chuck first came on scene in 11.20, I had high hopes. I thought the introduction and interactions were, honestly, wonderful. I was enchanted. In 11.21, the enchantment faded as God through Chuck became a bit...I don't know...'90s era cartoonish. But I still had hopes. After this episode, though, I need to be wowed with the finale or I may just have to write off the last four episodes of Season 11 as a failed experiment.
It's going to be interesting to see how they decide to close out this season and learn what bleeds over into Season 12. Because there's no more fear anymore. I'm not afraid that they'll kill one brother or the other because they've done that and brought them back, multiple times. I'm not afraid they'll turn one brother or the other evil, because they've done that. They could end the world and have the Winchesters in opposite realms (Heaven and Hell) I suppose. They could have them in the Empty, as Billie has threatened. That would be new.
But this storyline has become so Big and Important that it's gotten hard to see around it to find our boys. Our Show. Right now, to me it feels like a Jenga tower with only one middle support still in place. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the finale because I want to believe. And I'll be back for Season 12, of course, because you don't spend over a decade with a story and not see how it ends. But as it stands right now? I'm feeling rather disenchanted.
So, I'm going to go write my fic and focus on the Winchesters in my head. Thanks for reading; I'm sorry if I've disappointed you.