Thursday, May 1, 2014

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 20: Bloodlines

Chicago – is this the first time the Winchesters have been to a place that has a population over 3 figures?

Anyway, a couple are having a bug fancy dinner in a big fancy restaurant and the guy, Ennis Roth, is preparing to propose (and choke his fiancée with a ring in the champagne) when the maître d’ completely abandons him to greet some new arrivals – one of which looks very different and very scary in the mirror. Ennis backs off and the Maitre d’ takes the scary people to a very exclusive member’s only bar, one of which changes his hair colour by stroking it. The bar is full of supernatural creatures of various stripes and you’d think the shifter-hair changer would fit in but along comes Julian, the werewolf, to kick him out. There’s some snarling but it appears to end when we reach the ominous threat portion of the fight.

When the power goes off and a robed fellow rampages his way through the room full of monsters.

Meanwhile Ennis and his he-hopes-to-be-lady-love, Tamara move on to the next romantic location of choice and he leads up to his big proposal… and a man staggers up with a sucking stomach wound

You’d think this would be the lowpoint of Ennis’s night, but the wounded guy only has time to gasp “David, I’m sorry” before the robed being shows up, kills him – and Tamara.

Ah, Supernatural, even on your spin off show, the women are being rammed into the fridges.

Credit sequence and off to a university where another shapeshifter, David, steals some test results – when he gets a call from someone called Margo telling him his brother, Sal, is dead (the guy who died with Tamara).

Alas for Ennis, he decided to be totally honest with the police and tell them he saw someone who looked different in the mirror and clawed robed people. The detective questioning him, Freddie, knows Ennis (and knew his dad who is apparently an ex-cop) but Ennis insists on being honest rather than sensible. When Sam and Dean breeze in playing fake FBI agents and take over. Of course, they take all the info but Dean insists that there’s no such thing as monsters as part of his dramatic exit.

To Margo (sort of head of the Lassiter family) who apparently has Freddie in her pocket. She’s not happy that the ghouls and various other supernatural families are not uniting behind her because of Sal’s death and her father being extremely. David joins them and Margo blames Julian and the Duval family of werewolves; which is why Margo has gathered men with guns which Freddie and David consider worrisome. Margo doesn’t listen to much reason because David has been away for a while (trying to be human) and he used to have a thing with Violet Duval – yes a werewolf. Who’s also getting married. Yes love triangle, musty supernatural and star-crossed lovers in one big angsty package.

To the Duvals where Julian is meeting with the Djinn in preparation for war (which he wants) and Violet plays the role of conscience this time, with a side order of misogynist manhandling and insult of Violet.

Brief Ennis interval, who goes to his rather modest abode to look through his dad’s things – finding his lockpick, gun and bullets. Fancy looking bullets which may be made of silver and have things carved on them. He goes to do his own investigation of the club, finds claw marks and is found by a member of the staff who is also a vampire. All the classy clubs have vampire barmen. Ennis finds shooting the vampire does very little – but Sam and Dean arriving to do some decapitating is quite effective.

Dean encourages Ennis to run and when he doesn’t take his out, he tells Sam to give him the Hunter induction talk. That little formality covered, Dean admits that the creature that killed Tamara – and several others – seems to be something new. (Not the thing Ennis saw change in the mirror, that was just a wraith and lots of things look odd in mirrors or on phones). While Sam’s doing exposition, Dean searches the room and finds the bar supplies – human flesh and blood.

Again Ennis gets the speech about letting them handle it and goes home to do his own investigating. Until Freddie shows up to ask more questions about the monster – and Ennis takes the chance to look at him through his phone camera, revealing glowing eyes. Ennis grabs his dad’s gun with silver bullets. This Freddie isn’t Freddie –it’s David and he reveals himself as a shapeshifter. (He does have a good response to “what” “we… shift our shape. It’s kind of all there in the name.”)

David provides some more exposition – Chicago is split between 5 families who are basically Mafia, with their own territories. And yes, they own the police and maintain a low profile and generally a relatively low level of human casualties. Less than the alternative anyway. He examines David’s slashed jacket and realises the blade that cut it was silver (it burns him) so it couldn’t have been the werewolves. He also thinks Ennis should stay out of it – and runs.

At Julian Duval’s house, David drops in to see Violet basically so we can establish there’s still a romantic interest there and that she was going to run away with him but didn’t. Emotional scene called on account of robed guy with big silver blades showing up. He tries to carve into David’s chest but is stopped by Ennis, who is continuing his own investigations, shooting at the guy and making him run and attracting Winchester attention.

David gets to exposition to the Winchesters again. After much protest the 4 agree to work together to find Violet and her kidnapper who the Winchesters are currently betting on being worse than the people they’re allying with.

Violet is chained to a chair and her kidnapper is… a human! Surprise. His son was killed by monsters and he blames Sal and Julian, though Violet doubts it – they hated each other, they wouldn’t collaborate like that, certainly not to kill a kid. The human wants a war between the supernaturals – wants them to kill each other and doesn’t care over much about collateral damage.

Ennis and David have a moment over their mutual losses and gain some level of respect (Ennis passes on Sal’s last words). Dean has no time for that, of course, and they move in (Dean calls David “Romeo” and David hits back with “Buffy”. David wins.) But David gets himself captures (I take it back).

With them all tied up he starts torturing David – and that annoys Violet who finally remembers she’s a damn werewolf, snaps her chains and tears into the human until David breaks free and stops her. He three humans arrive and the killer recognises Ennis and apologises for killing Tamara but she was “in the way”.

It has to be said, when it comes to excuses for murdering someone’s fiancee there is absolutely no way that “she was in the way” is ever going to carry much water. Ennis responds with a “I only see one monster here” and shoots the killer.

Everyone’s free and we have one last revelation about why Sal decided to apologise to David with his dying breath – he was the one who drove Violet off before she and David could run off together; in the name of keeping the blood pure and preserving the bloodlines – but Violet decides to keep that secret. And kiss him instead, then run away – we’ve got a whole season of relationship angst to extract out of this one.

David goes to sit by his sick dad’s bedside and the old man manages to gasp out to stop Margot creating a war. Which prompts him both the expose the killer as not the Duvals – and to announce his return to the family. Margot pretends to be happy about this (you’d think someone who can shapeshift would be able to control their facial expressions better).

Sam and Dean drop Ennis off at home and Dean gets a call from Castiel about Metatron so they plan to leave – despite the whole city being crawling with monsters. Sam urges Ennis to not get involved again, to leave it for him and Dean to return with more monsters.

Of course, Ennis isn’t going to do that. And he gets a cryptic call from his supposedly dead father warning him about the monsters killing him if he becomes a Hunter.

This is, in case you didn’t guess, is a backdoor pilot for the new Supernatural spin-off series, Bloodlines. My first impressions are that I am… cautiously interested in this show. It has a nice concept, I want to know more about the 5 families, how Chicago works, the politics, the wrangling, the battles. The concept has me sold –yes it’s been described as “supernatural mafia” aaaaannnnd… long World Of Darkness fan that I am, I ask “and what’s wrong with that?” It should be fun.

What DOESN’T have me sold are these characters. The quality of acting isn’t great, everyone has had a metric fuckton of angst dropped upon them IN THE PILOT ALONE and after 9 seasons of Supernatural, my tolerance for epic manpain wears thin. And this wonderful setting and concept is going to be told through the lens of star-crossed lovers – oh CW, you’ve infected Supernatural. Quick, Sam, Dean run before the love triangles consume you!

I’m cautiously hopeful at the introduction of a POC main character/possibly co-protagonist for the new series. And I’m pretty damn livid by the fact that, like EVERY OTHER HUNTER EVER, he becomes a Hunter because his love interest is Fridged. Seriously Supernatural, change the damn record. There is actually a motivation in the world beyond vengeance for a dead woman. Do you know what would have been infinitely better? Ennis and Tamara as a hunter husband/wife team. That would have been awesome. Deadlady manpain is not nearly as awesome and has been done ad nauseam.

Nor do I particularly appreciate importing the whole “misogynistic werewolf” trope. Violet is the “bitch” so has not status – where does this even come from? Beyond a disturbing misogynist fantasy, why? Because wolf packs don’t operate this way!

Beyond this, I think this episode was also clumsy. Backdoor pilots can work – look at Vampire Diaries/The Originals. But that worked because several of the cast of Vampire Diaries was going over to the new show and new characters (Hayley) had had some introduction as well. There is no export from Supernatural to Bloodlines – so instead we had to hurriedly introduce the whole cast/world/concept in one episode embedded in another show. It could have been worse (trying to introduce all 5 families) but it was clumsy. Worse, Sam and Dean were really out of place – they were completely unnecessary but because there’s no-one from Supernatural making the jump, they needed them to make the episode work as an episode of Supernatural. It was a silly, unnecessary insertion and it came off as just that

And I don’t think it worked

The Winchesters are legendary hunters. Legendary beyond compare – they fought Lucifer and Michael, caused the Angels to fall, have faced the first vampire, the first werewolf, have faced Lilith and the mother of monsters, the Leviathan etc etc etc etc etc. We’ve repeatedly seen supernaturals up and down the US recognise the Winchesters. I don’t get how the organised monsters of Chicago, who have such police influence, could have the Winchesters waltz in, impersonating FBI agents, and not know about it and collectively lose their ever loving minds. Or David at least saying “Winchesters? Oh… shit…”

I similarly don’t buy that a phone call from Castiel is sufficient to get them on the road again after learning that the US’s 3rd biggest city is a monster haven. While hunting Metatron they’ve been willing to take side tracks to teeny tiny stops in the road across the mid-west, but Chicago isn’t worth their attention? And why do I think that wave of hunters they’re going to recruit isn’t going to happen? I actually would have appreciated a more informed justification for the abandonment – maybe the Winchesters saying they avoid big cities generally because urban monsters are more low key in the face of massed humanity than rural monster who can rely on isolation, low resources etc. But then they’d have to explain why the Winchesters decided to visit in the first place.

At very least, I find it unlikely they wouldn’t at least CONSIDER killing Violet and David when they had the chance. Sure they’ve let werewolves and shifters live before, but only with extenuating circumstances.

It felt forced which isn’t a great way to introduce what could be a very intriguing show.