Thursday, February 12, 2015

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 13: Halt & Catch Fire

Time for this week’s fodder, teenagers driving at night on a deserted road in a truck that becomes spookily cold. They also have a GPS phone that talks to them – really to them. The girl, Janet, is told to get out of the truck which she wisely does while the boy, Billy, is driven off a bridge.

To the Winchester cave and this week Dean is tired of trying to find a cure for the Mark since they’re not getting anywhere. Instead he wants to go on the case of the haunted truck.

On to the university where Janet attends and Dean creeping creepily over all the college women. The do the fake FBI skit (while Dean continues to creep on the college women). Other than basically recapping the haunting, Dean learns how very very dated he is. They also learn that Billy’s brother Joey died in Afghanistan, didn’t get on with Billy and that the truck was his first.

They find the truck confirm it’s a ghost and posit the theory that ghost Joey killed his little brother for driving his truck (a motive Dean agrees with). Time for salting and burning and we know this isn’t the answer because it’s waaay too early in the episode.

Julie, another college student who receives a creepy chat message from someone saying “810” “I know” which apparently frightens her – enough that she seems to forget that block buttons exist. Time for cold, telekinesis, lots of “810” messages – and being strangled with a computer wire (also screaming at a USB wire which is just… not courageous it has to be said).

Sam and Dean pull their FBI shtick to get all the info on the latest death and questioning her friend reveals nothing. Burrowing through her social media reveals nothing. The cafeteria is Dean’s idea of heaven though. But the searching does reveal to Dean that his internet browsing doesn’t disappear just because he deleted it (no we don’t need to know) and they do find the chat message.

They track down the chat account and see a woman throwing floral tributes left by a lamp post into a bin liner. They learn that her husband died shortly after they were married and she hates the fact the flowers remind her of the death. They do learn about the college student sending the floral tributes.

Some research turns up the details of the dead man, Andrew, who was cremated so unlikely to be the ghost either. Also noteworthy is his body being completely burned beyond recognition

On to some more students – Delilah (she who sent the floral tributes) and Kyle. She wants to come clean about something and is all nervous while Kyle is more sinister and threatening and in favour of silence in a the-ghost-will-totally-kill-me-next kind of way. Which then happens – courtesy of some ridiculously huge speakers and more 810 clues

To Dean and Sam finally questioning Delilah who reveals the four of them caused Andrew’s death by accidentally driving him off the road while they were all far too interested in their mobile phones and then fleeing the scene and Billy refusing to call the police because his license was suspended. Of course, Delilah is the nice one who wants the rest to go to the police but is convinced not to.

They put her in a salt circle while they try to figure out how the ghost is moving around so much while Delilah continues her “I’m the good one” speeches by talking about how tortured and guilty she feels. Dean talks about his own coping methods for the huge guilt baggage he carries – whisky, denial and making things better; he advises Delilah to seek forgivness right as Sam discovers the ghost is using wifi.

Dean rampages around smashing everything connected to wifi as ghostly Andrew appears in the screens – they run to the basement where reception is poor (since salt doesn’t work so well because wifi is everywhere).

Sam goes to see Andrew’s wife, Corey, and learns she has been in contact with her husband’s ghost online. Which was great at first – but Andrew became more focused and scary as he succumbed to his rage as ghosts are wont to (as we’ve seen multiple times before) She couldn’t bring herself to stop him, because revenge was the reason she had her husband back

Over at the basement Dean swipes at a manifesting Andrew and tries to reason with the ghost to stop him losing his humanity. Dean doesn’t get through – but a message (via Sam and mobile phones) from Corey encouraging him to move on gets through and he vanishes. Day is saved!

Aftermath – Delilah goes to confess to Corey.

This leads to Dean’s exposition – his way of finding peace is helping people. Which is Dean’s way of saying he’s not interested in finding a cure for the Mark he doesn’t think exists and that the false hope is killing him. He says he’s going to fight it until he can’t and then go down swinging which is tearful and pensive. It sounds like Dean is going to live with the Mark, repress it’s influence until he can’t – then death

I suspect death will not be the (permanent) answer. This is Supernatural after all.

So we have an old school Supernatural ghost hunt. I actually like that. As stories advance, especially long seasons like Supernatural you do tend to lose the roots as the characters focus on bigger, badder and stranger enemies. But then you have to wonder, while Sam and Dean run around playing with Angels, Demons and Leviathans (though we’d all much rather forget the latter), what about all the murdering ghosts that used to be the staple of Supernatural? Do they stop appearing, or do they just get a memo “sorry, your haunting does not fit our hunter criteria, please call again when stalked by a more interesting and original monster.”

So, I like the call back, I like the reminder of who and what the Winchesters are – especially with Dean’s affirmation that, basically, helping people is what he’s clinging to (and how he is holding off the Mark). Which requires a greater focus on helping people rather than focusing on the big, epic bad du jour (which technically does help people but in a grander, more meta-sense).

This could also mean lots of monster of the weak episodes – I think it could work so long as they also include plenty of Mark development and it may actually be a relief to see a lack of big bad after several seasons of trying to up the stakes.

Another interesting part of the call back was the out-of-touch element. Supernatural has run for 10 years and waaay back in 2005 when it started, Dean was 26 years old; Dean and Sam were young hunters. They’re now in their 30s and it’s good to look at that, to emphasise that they have aged even if just this subtle little confusion

Though, I think it would have worked better of the writers weren’t even less out of touch than Dean – it felt like a clumsy collection of millennial stereotypes more than anything else which rather detracted from the whole thing with lots of cringeworthiness. Equally cringeworthy was Dean’s completely unnecessary drooling over all the college women; what did it add beyond a desperate attempt to remind us that Dean is horny and likes women? We know this over and over again.

Was it a great episode? Not really – and I’d like more exposition on what “fight until I go down swinging” actually means. But it wasn’t bad and was nicely classic.