Friday, November 30, 2012

Supernatural, Season 8, Episode 8: Hunteri Heroici

Obligatory starting gore – a man and a woman meet for a romantic moment, seemingly making up after a fight and his heart explodes, showering her with blood. Gah, she’ll never get those stains out.

Sam and Dean are avoiding Mrs. Tran’s calls (she, Kevin and Garth are on Garth’s secure house boat. Don’t ask) and Castiel (WHO IS BACK!!!) is awesome (of course) and has turned off his celestial radio – wanting nothing further to do with heaven.  But he still wants to help – he wants to become a hunter! (Wait wait wait, Sam wants a normal life, Castiel wants to be a hunter? G’bye Sam – don’t let the door hit you on the way out). And he finds the case of the jumping heart. They take him – but he’s not allowed to zap ahead and he’s not allowed in the front seat. Poor Cas.

To  the morgue to see the body where the Detective there fills them in (there’s an original diagnosis of drugs – which is ridiculous and the detective thinks so since drugs don’t EJECT your heart from your chest. If they did those “this is your brain on drugs” adverts would be a lot more dramatic. Castiel’s angel senses can see there’s no contaminants). Castiel’s angel senses are pretty useful – EMF, sulphur, state of health of the victim, but not that he was having an affair. Sam and Dean extrapolate from Olivia’s – the woman who saw him die – witness statement and leave Castiel with his perfect “I’m trying to understand” face.

Time to talk to the dead man, Gary’s husband. First Castiel tries and it goes as well as you’d expect, followed by Sam smoothing it over and asking real questions. Poor Cas. Then in comes Olivia, yes, the mistress, and the wife’s very good friend. The Winchesters try to find a tactful way of bringing up the affair later, Castiel says it outright “he was sleeping with her”.  It’s awkward but not as awkward as it could be as it turns out they had an open relationship and the wife knew all about it.

It’s time for someone else to die – the man is about to jump off a roof to commit suicide. He screws up his courage and steps out – onto empty air. He doesn’t fall. It’s only when he looks down that he actually falls to his death. The detective calls them in to the case – seems like a simple suicide but the 2 people witnessing his 10 seconds of standing on air put it in the weird category. Dean comments that it’s out of a cartoon – heart leaping out of his chest, needing to look down before falling. They then get to explain cartoons to Castiel.

Confused they decide to sleep on it and try to convince Castiel to book a room (he doesn’t sleep, he can stay here – Sam and Dean less than happy with the idea of Cas “watching over them” while they sleep). The conflict is averted by Castiel’s angel senses picking up the police band and an odd robbery – a bank has been robbed and the security guard has been squished by a giant anvil dropping on his head. Another crime right out of the cartoons.

To the crime scene where the detective is already waiting for them. Seems the thief has hit other places – not killing people, but he leaves a “black hole” behind – a large painted black circle. Sam goes with the detective to find out more about the previous cases while Dean gets Castiel to life the anvil (angel strength!) and see that under it and the splattered body is an X – just like in the cartoons. More cartoon rules – including painting a door or black hole on a wall and being able to walk through it.

At the motel room, Dean tries to talk to Castiel about being released from Purgatory – how there’s always a downside to these sudden resurrections and how it took him a while to get himself back together. He suggests that Castiel drop in on heaven and see why he was resurrected – Castiel refuses, angrily and vehemently and won’t look at Dean. Dean closes his lap top and sits opposite Castiel and tells him “talk to me.”

Castiel talks about his guilt, about the thousands of angels he destroyed when he had the Leviathans inside him and how he can’t go to heaven and see what is left of it – if he sees what he’s done he may kill himself.

Unfortunately Sam interrupts with his police reports – it seems that the robberies have all called cartoon effects for 50 yards around them – people hitting their heads and getting 4 inch lumps or hearing birds etc. And the dead Gary and floating suicide victim were both just within the radius rather than targeted themselves.  But all the robbery targets do belong to people at the same retirement home.

The retirement home gives Dean the heebie jeebies and several of the residents are confused or live in their own heads, but they do find that Fred Jones, an old psychokinetic contact of theirs, is actually in the home. Collecting Castiel from where he’s interviewing the cat (don’t ask) to see Fred. They find Fred watching TV – and almost catatonic. But they confirm the cartoon reality shift around him is working (with Dean hitting his head and hearing birds), Fred’s severely powerful, able to alter reality with his psychokinetic ability. Unfortunately they’re then kicked out because the head of the retirement home hears Castiel speculate about killing him.

While they’re away, Fred is watching cartoons while another resident is having her birthday party – complete with exploding candle. Yes, it’s messy, but cake is the only casualty (alas! Cake!). Castiel calls Sam and Dean but they find Fred has been taken during the chaos – but they do notice that one of the nurses is wearing some of the stolen diamonds. She claims her boyfriend gave it to her.

They track him down, one of the other nurses, and find he has been shot in the stomach. Handily they have an angel with the power of healing to patch that up so they can ask questions. Seems Dr. Maloney, the head of the retirement home, has been skimming off the old folks for a while and when they realised Fred had magic cartoon abilities they exploited him to get them into places to steak. The Doctor has now lost it and is hitting the bank for one last score before skipping town – after killing his accomplice and Fred.

They catch up with Fred in a car outside the bank and Castiel helps Sam talk to him by dumping Sam and him into Fred’s brain. There they can talk to Fred, who remembers Sam but doesn’t realise how long has passed.  Fred, with his incredibly powerful brain, was terrified when his mind started to go and retreated more and more inwards, to his love of cartoons. Sam talks about how he knows it’s easy to live in a dream world and eventually gets through to Fred.

Dean, meanwhile, goes through the holes into the bank to confront the doctor. But fighting in cartoon reality isn’t easy. Cartoon fight! Which is ended when Fred turns off the cartoons – and shows up fully compos mentis and makes the doctor turn his gun on himself. Mess not with the telekinetic. But Fred sees the destruction in the bank and is worried – he’s good now but he’s losing his mind and how long before he loses control again? He talks about wanting to stop it entirely and Castiel has a solution – albeit a painful one that may destroy his mind. Fred agrees

We move back to the home and Fred is back into his own mind in a near catatonic state – but Castiel says he’s listening to Ode to Joy – and that he’s happy.

They start to head off into the sunset but Castiel decides he needs to confront what he did in heaven – and begins to say so when he’s zapped up to Amnesia Naomi’s office telling him that, no, no he is not coming back to heaven, not until she says so. He’s back to reality (having forgotten the visit, of course) and says he wants to watch Mr. Jones for a while – and that he needs to stop running.

Ah shit, Sam flashback. We don’t want Sam flashbacks – there’s no Castiel in Sam’s flashbacks. Sam gets to meet Amelia’s father just after they moved into a house together. Amelia’s father (also called Sam) is hostile. Her father recognises he’s been through some things (he thinks army) and is running from something like his daughter and is worried they’re both just clinging to each other. Still Sam manages to win him over, talking about his lost brother – and Amelia gets a phone call. Don, her dead ex, is actually alive

Oh and a hint – every time these flashbacks happen? They happen after someone talks about “living in your head” or “living in a dream world.” So who’s betting that Amelia et al don’t actually exist? Especially with Sam telling Fred about living in a dream world while Castiel gives him suspicious eyes?

Castiel. Castiel. Castiel. Castiel. Castiel.

What, you expect actual commentary? Have an angel picture, it’ll make you feel better.

Castiel makes everything better

 Ok, beyond adoration of Castiel, yes this was a monster of the week episode, no it didn’t advance the meta and yes, it was a bit silly. But I think that worked because this episode wasn’t about the meta or even the monster, it was about Castiel being re-introduced, it was about setting up a routine where Dean, Sam and Castiel are a trio – something they haven’t been before. Castiel has always been a force that is summoned, not a constant presence. So the meta took a step back and the plot became something fluffy and ignorable so we could focus on the re-introduction of Castiel and establishing this dynamic.

One thing I did find telling was Dean trying to get Castiel to talk about coming back from Purgatory. I  liked this because I’ve often said that Dean has been through Hell (literally) more than any other character, he has suffered exponentially more than anyone on this show – and the suffering bar is really high. When he starts to crack, the people around him tell him to, basically, suck it up and move on (which suits their characters but is very dismissive of the PTSD Dean likely lives with). You’d expect Dean to be the same – yet, seeing Castiel having gone through something similar to what he has, he tries to draw Castiel out to talk, he tries to help and even, potentially, offer comfort.

It’s hard not to see the contrast and, perhaps in an over-reading way, not see how this is probably very much what Dean needs and maybe even wants.

And the acting is phenomenal.

The horror of losing your mind and facilities with age is a theme they touch on here but I think there’s so much emphasis of it connected with Fred’s woo-woo that we lose the actual message.