Friday, March 1, 2013

Supernatural Season 8, Episode 16: Remember the Titans

So we have a man driving late at night, he’s drinking and he’s falling asleep at the wheel. This is not a great combination. And he hits someone, leaving him prone, unmoving and bleeding from the head. The driver gets out, panicky, sees the blood and jumps back into his car and drives off.

The next day, the victim is still prone by the side of the road, there’s frost in his beard – and an eagle is eating his liver. No, really. Hark, is that Greco-Roman mythology I smell? A police car stops, the bird flies off and the police officer takes the man’s pulse confirming that he’s well and truly dead. He turns back to his car to call it in – and the dead man takes a breath, his wounds healing, his skin losing its deathly pallor, he even loses some of the frost. He gets up and wanders off, much to the surprise of the police man.

At the Winchester cave, Sam is still spitting up blood and trying to hide the fact from Dean. Pish posh, what’s a little internal bleeding? Kevin’s still busy, Castiel’s still absent (but not for long… return to me angel!) and Dean’s getting edgy and noticing Sam’s caginess

So, time for a case – and Sam has the guy who got up after his car accident, reported as a zombie. They go to see the nice State Trooper posing as FBI and the policeman is quite happy to stick with the zombie explanation, which is actually kind of refreshing. The body wasn’t dragged because there were only 1 set of footprints. And no, he didn’t go wandering out in the woods zombie hunting, there are grizzly bears in those woods.

At this point a woman at a computer passes on a report from the coroner’s office – a man apparently mauled by a grizzly. It’s the same man (not having a lot of luck, is he?) The policeman declares him a zombie and advises the Winchesters to aim for the head.

They go to the morgue and find the body – and his liver has been eaten by a bird again. Dean is very disappointed  because it seems there’s going to be no fun  zombie killing action but while Sam and Dean argue about it, poor Prometheus raises from the dead again. He runs off and when Sam and Dean turn round, the corpse is missing. They quickly catch Prometheus and Dean places a gun to his head and demands to know what he is. He doesn’t know – he doesn’t know what he is, who he is – he just dies and dies and dies and dies and knows nothing about why and he’s on the edge of despair with it. He dies once a day as long as he can remember and then comes back (something Dean calls a “real life Kenny.”)  He says his name is Shane and they drag him back for testing

Silver blade, holy water et al none of which does anything. And Shane can only remember the past few years and he doesn’t even remember his real name. He was found on a mountain in Europe (Greece, perhaps?), an assumed avalanche victim and he doesn’t remember anything before that. Sam and Dean think he may be under a curse and set him up in the motel for the night

And during that night, a woman sneaks into his room. She stokes his hair and he catches her wrist. She smiles slightly and he asks who she is which surprises her – she realises he doesn’t remember. She raises a knife to stab him and he pushes her aside, they fight and Dean comes in when he hears the noise. He tries to stab her and she knocks him down relatively easily then sends Sam flying with a wave of her hand. Shane does rather a lot better, managing to disarm her and hold a knife to her face and demand her identity. She says “now, I’m your worst enemy” grabs the knife by the blade and disappears – knife and all – into a cloud of black smoke.

After the battle Shane is almost in shock, he’s never been in a fight his whole life – something that surprises Sam and Dean since he can fight as well or better than they can. The shock’s so bad he has a heart attack and dies.

Next day while Shane is laid on the bed Sam and Dean brainstorm. Who do they know who has “Jason Borne fighting skills, dies a lot and has a history of violent women” Dean points to Sam (it’d apply to Dean as well). There’s a knock at the door and a woman with a small boy asks if they know anything about the missing corpse. She’s Hayley and the mother of Shane’s son. She’s not surprised to see Shane dead.

She discusses their history – she was one of those who climbed the mountain and found Shane. But the first time he died and came back and she couldn’t deny it she ran – and had his son, Oliver, 9 months later and couldn’t find him again afterwards and it took her a long time to be able to start looking again and find him. Which is when Shane emerges, alive again.

After much questioning Sam has put his mythology hat on and named Shane Prometheus the Titan who has been cursed for stealing fire after Zeus decided to revoke the ability to make fire from humanity. And Zeus strapped him to a mountain and made him relive death every day as punishment (well have his liver eaten by an eagle anyway). And the woman who visited last night? Artemis.

They break the news to Shane and his first instinct is to get away from Hayley and Oliver, much to Dean’s surprise and borderline contempt, he doesn’t want to put them at risk. Which is interrupted by Hayley bringing in the injured Oliver – dying to be reborn. He has Shane’s curse.

To the Winchester cave! Oliver started exhibiting the curse when he turned 7 – first stage of Ancient Greek manhood according to Mooseopedia. And now they get to explain all this to Hayley who is having trouble absorbing everything. And Dean suggests his usual solution – summon the guy behind the curse and work him over until he removes it. Since the curser in this case is Zeus, I’m going to vote no on that one, but the Winchesters disagree (given how Supernatural has portrayed the other Greek gods – or any gods not Christian – I shouldn’t be surprised really).

They do some research and find Dracoupolos, a Greek hero whose journal came into the hands of the Men of Letters who discovered you can kill Zeus with a tree that has been struck by lightning and you can summon him with “frozen energy from the hand of Zeus” (a fulgurite) and the bone of a worshipper. Hayley is concerned that the journal just ends – and there’s no indication that Zeus didn’t just kill Dracoupolos.

Sam looks up Greek pagan groups – and their obituaries with Shane; while Dean and Hayley plan to steal some fulgurite (last time they had to “steal it from a 1 percenter”) but Hayley counters that New Age shops stock it for pagan communities and crystals.

While digging graves, Shane questions why Sam is risking so much for him and Sam turns it round, pointing out what Shane risked stealing back fire. But Shane thinks it all amounts to nothing if he can’t save his son – uh, saving the entire world and civilisation against a boy you met less than a day ago? Get me that eagle

Time for the dramatic, thundery summoning and Zeus arrives. I like him, he agrees to break the curse – if they break the trap. Dean won’t fall for that – but Hayley won’t risk her son going uncured and breaks the trap. He sends Sam, Dean and Prometheus flying with some nice lightning effects and as an added bonus he’s brought Artemis along to help. Zeus is quite happy with Prometheus suffering the death of his son a thousand times over and considers the curse passing on to be a wonderful happy accident. Well, Zeus always was vengeful and rather disproportionate. But Artemis, watching, clearly feels guilty even as she leads Sam and Dean away.

Sam starts taunting Artemis, pointing out that as Hunters she’s their god and doesn’t seem to be up to scratch any more. This irritates her a little. But then Sam tries plan b – telling her Prometheus still loves her, how she refused to find him to protect him from Zeus until her hand was forced etc. She feels more troubled at his description of Oliver dying and the sound of Zeus torturing Prometheus.

As Zeus plans to kill Oliver, Artemis arrives to point a bow at Zeus telling him to release everyone. She shoots him – but he pulls Shane in the way. Shane forces the arrow all the way through him so it stabs Zeus behind him – lightning struck wood. Artemis removes the arrow, takes Zeus’s body and they both disappear.

We cut to Shane being cremated on a funeral pyre – with the curse broken he won’t raise again. Not-so-happily ever after.

Dean and Sam drive off and now Sam’s starting to wonder if completing the Hell trials means he’s going to die, given how many people they know have died and it’s Dean’s turn to be the positive one. Sam rejects that he can just will to live since none of the people he knew chose otherwise. Dean won’t have it with some nice counters.

But at the Winchester cave Dean starts praying – to Castiel. He knows Sam’s hurting and it was supposed to be his job, he asks Castiel to keep a look out for Sam. The best scene and the best acted scene in the whole episode.

I can probably write a whole mini-essay on Dean just mentioning that Sam’s acting cagey without pushing on it. After all, Dean the many-times-dying-has-done-a-full-tour-of-every-afterlife-connoiseur-of-all-tortures is a master of extreme issues and badness that he Doesn’t Want to Talk About (or he does want/need to talk about, but the people around him have little wish to listen, certainly not in a constructive manner).  There’s a lot of history and context behind his acknowledgement that Sam HAS an issue, making it clear he KNOWS there’s an issue (and the unsaid invitation to manage said issue), but giving Sam the choice on how to deal with that issue.

I actually really really like the state trooper’s response. In a lot of Urban Fantasy, characters act the way we would – in a world where zombies etc don’t exist. It’s nice to see someone, in a world where the supernatural actually exists, happily and calmly accepting the evidence of his own eyes without being a credulous, naïve woo-woo aficionado. Just plainly saying “no, zombies. Only explanation, I know what I saw.” Add in the “I’m not going into the woods! There are bears in there!” and he may be the most sensible person not only on the show but in the entire genre ever.

Supernatural and non-Christian mythology tends to be a bad mix – with deities and powers of other traditions being reduced to monsters, demons and beasties of the week. They play fast and loose with Christian tradition, but the power and importance of the entities within are never downplayed or dismissed (do we have to mention Lucifer killing Kali and Ganesh, again?)

And lo, the plans of menfolk was brought low by the emotions of their womenfolk! The Winchesters and Shane have Zeus trapped – but the emotional, irrational Hayley let Zeus go. Zeus is in control and winning, but the emotional, irrational Artemis lets her heart rule her head. Yes, Artemis, celibate Artemis, is moved by an appeal of a man loving her.

And I’m giving this episode an extra half-fang for Dean’s prayer scene alone.