Friday, November 10, 2017

Stop Celebrating Crumbs

As reviewers and commenters on diversity, inclusion, equality and representation in Urban Fantasy specifically and speculative fiction in general, we often have a lot of negative things to say. So many negative things to say. There are simply not enough bullets to hit all the fish packed in these barrels. Just repeatedly saying, over and over again “there are no LGBTQ characters in this book” which I am thinking of turning into a macro to save time, is a constant negative refrain I find myself chanting like a very depressing mantra.

Which means when we find something with excellent representation, with meaningful  presence in the story, that matters to the plot, which avoids tropes and stereotypes it’s a blessed relief to break out the confetti and start singing it to every corner of the internet. It’s a joy to applaud the starkly powerful dystopia of Handmaid’s Tale, the epic storyline and racial commentary in American Gods, the incredible acting and plethora of differently-strong women on Orphan Black. The diversity of Class, the widely present racial inclusion of the Psy/Changeling, Bone Street Rumba, Rayne Whitmore,the Habitat Series, and Kate Daniels series all all worthy of praise and it’s a pleasure to lavish praise on them.

But sometimes it seems that we see that praise being doled out… a little over-eagerly - which seems to be an increasing recurring theme in LGBTQ portrayal now that we’re actually getting some.

Often this is an utterly cynical ploy by show creators (aided and abetted by actors, writers and all too often the media) who realise that throwing in some token diversity will get them access to a potentially loyal audience. Ultimately, as we’ve said time and time again on Fangs for the Fantasy erasure is incredibly common, most media has little minority representation or only very limited or deeply troped marginalised representation. Marginalised people want representation - anyone following social media and diversity blogosphere knows how much hype can be gathered by marginalised people desperately wanting to see themselves in a meaningful manner on television or in books. The enthusiasm is matched only by much cishet white people will lose their ever loving shit over said representation.

So when you’ve got a desperate, eager population of viewers who will definitely tune in if they think you have meaningful representation, of course they’re going to reach out to minorities to try and sell their minorities. The sad thing is that repeatedly sell the least, using articles and marketing ploys to convince us that tiny, brief, minor characters and tokens are amazing inclusion we’re all going to love. Only for more disappointment every single time as we find that hyped, amazing inclusion is another non-existent, brief token with no real presence in the show or book.

And while we certainly should not give a pass to the showrunners, producers (and writers and actors who are ridiculously complicit in this marketing and are constantly allowed to repeat this nonsense) who prey on this hunger for representation to try and sell their product; we also have to cast an eye on the media that is buying into this. Especially media which is expressly supposed to cater for and advocate for minorities. Really, Pink News I get that everyone needs hits, but when Jordan Woods-Robinson, the actor who played Eric on The Walking Dead said:

Then maybe someone might have wanted to reel back on that? The man had less than 20 minutes total screen time over 3 seasons. People had to look up his name. He didn’t just star in a zombie, dystopian version of Rent. The fact that anyone is “resonating” with this relationship just shows how much we need more meaningful inclusion on these shows.

This is a problem other LGBT media has indulged in - The Advocate got some hefty pushback from their fawning interview with the Teen Wolf actors saying how amazingly progressive their show was. But we equally see other websites that pride themselves on their social justice or minority focus from the Mary Sue to the Backlot/NewNowNext to many others have all lept to lavish the most praise on the very least - or even just teases of the very least. Seriously, people, how many times can Star Wars and Marvel say “sorry no LGBT characters in this film, maybe next one” before you STOP jumping all over the rumours of the next one maybe, possibly having an LGBTQ character? Do you need those post clicks to pay for all the bridges you keep buying?

And that fan reaction to the Teen Wolf interview was sadly an anomaly. On social media you can happily find legions of fans gasping over how hot the sex scene was between Billy Eichner and Colton Hanes on American Horror Story (a 3 seconds scene of two torsos in moderate proximity…). We had people in rhapsodies of joy because Star Trek Discovery showed a gay couple declaring their love and movingly expressing said emotion after one had nearly died to save the other - by brushing their teeth together. Colgate isn’t this enthusiastic about oral hygiene. My dentist isn’t and I’m pretty sure flossing is a religion to her.

Even when shows do certainly have positive portrayals - like American Gods truly hot sex scene between the djinn and Salim was definitely worthy of praise: but to praise this one scene while ignoring the sad fact that Salim was a bit character at best.

When you’re hungry for representation, crumbs can feel like a feast. And when you’ve had nothing, even a small amount can feel like a lot. But disproportionate fawning over relatively small - or less - characterisations can be damaging. There’s all those cynical show producers (and writers and actors and so many more) who know they can get massive amounts of buzz, attention and revenue by waving a small token or rumour in front of us. While at the same time keeping it “low key” enough to not unduly outrage all those precious cishet white folks who always get so utterly outraged at the presence of anyone not just like them. The writers et al have no incentive to do more, provide more or treat their LGBTQ characters - or any minority characters - remotely respectfully or meaningfully.

This isn’t even about active bigotry - from a sheer economic and marketing perspective: if you have a segment of the population who will boycott, scream and generally lose their shit if you include minorities in anything and the opposite side will treat you as an utter saviour for doing the least - or less - then you have a powerful incentive for doing as little as possible to get that buzz while still flying as far under the radar of the screaming masses as you positively can. Every time we throw a parade because an LGBTQ person indulged in some loving flossing or appeared on screen for five minutes or was just rumoured to be about to appear we continue to encourage these show creators to do no more than the least

It can also be destructive on a personal level for minorities. We know what a main character looks like. We know what a meaningful character looks like. We know what important characters look like. We know when a scene is important, when a scene is moving, when a scene is exciting or epic or even hot or explicit. We’ve already said time and again how damaging it is for minorities to only see themselves as supporting cast, a minor elements - or not present at all - the pervasive message is that we deserve to be no more than minor, quiet reflections in some privileged person’s life. That we don’t matter, that we’re less important and less valuable.

But how much more damaging is it when members of that minority and publications supposedly advocating for that minority buy into this? When the producers throw a token, tiny character and expect us to be happy, they’re reinforced when we flock round to praise and hail them for this minimal inclusion. The producers tell us we should be grateful for being these minor inclusions in a cishet white man’s life - and then we flock round to agree with that, to express that very gratitude and fawning. The producers tell us we don’t deserve better than this… and we agree with them. That’s a combined message which is the very opposite of empowering.

I get it, I have been more than tempted to wave the flag and cheer every time I see someone like me on television - I’ve read literally thousands of books and am represented in less than 5% of them, we’ve reviewed over 120 shows and meaningful representation is not the norm. As I said before, when you’re starving, a crumb can seem like a feast. And of course we should enjoy our crumbs - but we shouldn’t forget that they’re still crumbs and we shouldn’t be sending the message that crumbs are what we deserve and should be happy for.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

American Horror Story, Season 7, Episode 10: Charles (Manson) in Charge

Who wants to know more about Kai’s background?

Nobody? Yeah me too - but we’re getting it anyway. Because being traumatised by his parents and keeping their corpses just isn’t enough reason to believe he became a serial killer cult leader

So, back to the past and the election, oh yay, and we have Winter and some white lady friends playing Oppression Olympics between sexism and racism, they’re super confident Hillary will win while Kai dismisses this because they’re underestimating the power of futile white male rage. They argue and Kai slaps Winter’s friend - and she presses charges despite his begging. Yes this is Kai in a more pathetic time

He’s sentenced to Anger Management with the improbable counsellor, Bebe. Yes that Bebe. How anyone could consider her qualified is bemusing. More bemusing is how she decides to recruit Kai to her mission to destroy all men within 10 minutes of seeing him. Seriously can you imagine her office? Within 5 minutes of meeting a new patient she’s trying to recruitment them on her genocide campaign and she keeps her license?

More unlikely, Kai agrees to call himself  a turd and get on board to unleash the mighty power of female rage on the whole world. She’s decided that centuries of patriarchy mean women are just ready to rise up and burn it all down and they just need the number one misogynist to finally provoke them.

This is actually a bullshit argument we’ve been hearing a lot since Trump has been elected - that by hitting the Utter Worst it will provoke a backlash, nearly inevitably from people who on the whole won’t have their lives completely ruined by that Utter Worst. And it comes with a bizarre lack of historical knowledge about just how fecking bad things were. It wasn’t that long ago when men could legally rape their wives beat their wives, women couldn’t own property - and women didn’t explode and murder all men.

Anyway, Kai, after this 5 minutes speech, decides indeed he does want to be a martyr in the name of exploding female rage. Because who needs coherent motives?

To the present we get more political drama with protestors protesting Kai’s naziness and run for Senate. But mainly we have Kai getting steadily more paranoid, believing the feds are everywhere and bugging his house

That would be the house with 3-5 rotting corpses in one of the bedrooms. Seriously if the Feds can sneak in microphones, they will notice the stench of death. You don’t need to record incriminating evidence if you have actual murdered corpses.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Lucifer: Season 3, Episode 6: Vegas With Some Radish

Today is Chloe’s birthday - and Dan celebrates by getting her a cake. Awww

And someone else celebrates by getting Chloe a person sized cake and a stripper. Yes I thought it was Lucifer too but it turns out it is Ella who helpfully hands out singles as well. Ella throws a good party.

Unfortunately before the party can even get started, Lucifer gets a call from the Las Vegas police telling him that Candy is missing- that would be soon-to-be-ex-wife Candy who was kind of awesome

Lucifer isn’t going to sit and not investigate and decides to go to find her. And despite misgivings and no motive, Ella decides to come with

It makes no sense but Ella is 10 kinds of awesome in this episode so let’s just run with it

Chloe is, however, shocked and really hurt that Lucifer just run out on her on her birthday. I mean really hurt. Seriously when she asks if they’re leaving I felt genuinely bad for her.

So to Vegas!

There they find a crime scene and Candy’s apparent dead body - though Lucifer realises it’s not Candy because Candy has hugantic feet and the corpse doesn’t. Ella is there to be awesome, provide crime scene skills and give Lucifer an alibi in case the police decide to look at him. She also thinks they should keep the whole fact that Candy isn’t dead quiet so whoeever did the murdering will, y’know, stop trying to murder.

As I said, Ella shines this episode with lots of intelligence and skills

They follow some clues, aided by flashbacks of Lucifer meeting Candy and how she had to pay off a loan shark who was about to foreclose on her dad’s club (they met when Candy picked Lucifer’s pocket and he was duly impressed). Following clues reveals said loan shark is also dead (and has a terribly decorated house) and clues further lead to loan shark’s wife who is alive but didn’t kill anyone since she’s more interested in getting it with the professional golfer at one of the tables. So a lot of dead ends

But these dead ends do show more insight from Ella, more crime scene knowledge, that she can pick locks, that she can count cards, she has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Vegas and ye gods can she work a sparkly dress. Ella has all kind of talents, applause for Ella

The Walking Dead, Season 8, Episode 3: Monsters

I have a slight pet hate with shows that elegantly present a point - then blink and decide that they’ve been way too damn subtle and/or their audience is way stupider than that and proceed to beat us across the head with it. And so we have this episode

Morales has Rick at gunpoint and they both begin expositioning. It’s an epic speech  - with a simplistic message: Morales became a Saviour after his family was murdered, he despaired, fell apart and the Saviour saved him - and yes, he’s “Negan”. He makes the point that both he and Rick are the same, and if Rick had the gun Morales would be dead now. They’re both monsters who do what they must to survive and they’re just the same.

Have we caught the theme yet? Yes Rick is just as bad as Negan and his people as bad as the Saviours they just happen to be on different sides, transformed by the same losses and horrors.

This would mean more if we hadn’t spend all of last season making the point that Negan was the worst with lots of torture and rape.

We also learn Negan wants Rick, “The Widow” (that would be Maggie. And while “The Widow is a pretty epic title it also defines her entirely by her relationship to a man) and “The King” alive

Daryl does not want  Morales alive and shoots him in the back of the head. Rick protests asking Darryl if he knew who that was. Darryl is clear: yes he knows, he heard and it doesn’t matter even a little bit.. The enemy gets shot.

Y’know I get the point they’re trying to make and I guess it’s kinda sorta more powerful that it’s someone Rick recognises and remembers who he used to be… but at the same time dragging up Morales expressly to kill him. I feel a lot more could have been done with him rather than pulling back random latino most of us don’t remember in order to kill him

They start to leave but are ambushed by some returning Saviours and have to do some more fighting before the other of Rick’s forces out front finally finish everyone off and everyone gets a good slaughtering. Including Eric

Hey remember Eric? Yes almost-non-existent Aaron’s even more non-existent boyfriend got shot in the stomach and is now dead. I would say it’s a powerful display of grief but I’m not going to drag up even the slightest attempt of praise for a show that remembers a gay character exists in time to kill them. So random pointless tragedy of a character you care nothing about but hey, someone had to die for this to be an actual war.

In the aftermath Rick hands the baby over to Aaron because why not and then a survivor of the Saviours manages to take a few pot shots at Rick. Rick agrees to let the survivor - who seems very young - to live if he tells them where the big guns went. He does and Daryl shoots him

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1, Episode 8: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

The war against the Klingons isn’t going well. While the Discovery is swooping in wherever it can to try and turn the tide, it is just one ship, while Kol has successfully shared out the stealth drive to every Klingon ship that declares loyalty which means Federation ships are being ambushed and destroyed constantly.

So they need a counter and they’ve found the planet of Pahvo which comes with lots of shiny noise which may be turned into a special invisibility beating sonar. So woo-woo science

They decide to make an away team of Michael, Saru and Ash because it’s standard Star Trek protocol that if an away team is devastated it should out a significant chunk of your command and send the crew into chaos.
The planet is all shiny and glowy and they begin their hike with Michael handily lecturing Ash on Kelpian anatomy (in addition to having ridiculously acute near psychic senses, they can also run incredible fast on account of being the ultimate prey species. And honestly at this point I want to know what the predators on the Kelpian world are like because they’re capable of taking down intelligent, super-fast psychic beings you do not want to mess with them) much to Saru’s vague annoyance at being spoken about like a science project. But he makes the point that the constant harmonics of everything on this planet singing with all the voices of a mountain is giving him a killer headache.

As they head to the great big crystal spire they come across clouds of glowy gassy creatures which are apparently sentient and connected to the whole planet in a this-is-sorta-cribbed-from-Avatar-kind-of-way-but-I-bet-Trek-did-it-first without all the plug-in-ponytails. This changes things and they’re now on First Contact Protocols

This means - no revealing they’re an advanced warp capable life form and no using their stuff (including the planet and great big shiny crystal transmitter) without the informed consent of the Pahvans

While it’s all nice and shiny you do have to wonder at Federation war footing “the Klingons are coming sir!” “yes, but there’s an endangered space whale on the port bow, we must arrange relocation to a zoo!” “We’re facing defeat in the war sir!” “yes, but new species, we should introduce ourselves in a long winded fashion”

Of course, Star Fleet’s standard operation in this war is to fight by finding random weird natural things and using them. I mean, are any of their scientists or engineers trying to develop new weapons and ships or are they hoping to run across a flower that creates force fields?

Dear Star Trek writers - we do not need a flower that creates forcefields.

Superstition, Season 1, Episode 3: Half Truths and Half Breeds

New character time - we have a bar and it all looks so old fashioned, I assumed it was a flashback for a while. We have a couple looking nicely pleasant and a man with a scarred eye and a lot of slurring and not-quite-racial commentary looking very ominous

They refer to each other as extended family - and then the scarred man, James, killed them both most brutally. And he manages to disarm the barman’s gun with a knife before sitting down, drinking and waiting for the police

The police arrive and May has James arrested before interviewing him because he gives everyone the extreme willies. He doesn’t have much to say, only chanting “they are coming” and demanding to speak to Calvin.

Calvin arrives and gets more cryptic from James, lots of “more are coming”, talking about the Herald’s call and how he drinks all the booze to try and dull it and then a cryptic poem about immortals which is clearly all about Isaac.

Clearly he’s supernatural, but since Calvin wants to keep all of this from May he plays ignorant after basically telling James if he wants to get out he has to free himself. Calvin then goes on to interview the barman after claiming everything is fine - oh and stands May up in the process.

She is not amused

James does release himself - with violence - and goes to Calvin’s house to hide out and he openly lies to May about him, challenging her to get a warrant.

All of this rather sours May on Calvin. She started this episode defending Calvin to Garvey, willing to meet with him to give him some tips and, when Garvey revealed the background info she’d dug up, assuring Garvey that that level of secrecy is common and understandable for a Marine (and I do like to see Garvey and May together) to officially being fecking done with Calvin and his secretive ways. Isaac worked with her, included her, shares information with her - and Calvin is just stonewalling.
Another family conflict is the briefly appearing Tilly who has a lot of questions about Isaac. Because finding out Isaac is an immortal makes her wonder how many more secrets he’s keeping and he keeps poking Bea about it. Bea is firm - Isaac has no secrets from her, yes she knows everything. She even used woo-woo with a goose tongue to prove it. Whether that works or not, Bea is clear, Isaac may be secretive with everyone else but he’s an open book to her

So, James. With much talk back and forth, partially in Spanish since James is Hispanic, we learn that James is basically half-infernal. And he and Isaac have been friends for a while - he even knows where Isaac keeps his hidden booze from their prohibition days. He says Isaac sent him to help look after things and kill Infernals while he’s away.

James also makes it pretty clear he’s not a nice guy. His Infernal side does drive him to kill people - he just channels that to kill Infernals. He doesn’t even try to claim he does it for the sake of goodness - just that he likes killing, loves killing.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Z Nation, season 4, Episode 6: Back from the Undead

Last week Murphy was bitten, the gang got him into a car and Warren drove off - she continues driving now. She’s in complete vision mode, seeing the giant arch ahead of her and not hearing everyone urging her to slow down. As Murphy struggles in and out of consciousness and everyone panics about what to do Warren keeps driving, faster and faster

Her visions changes and seems to have an electronic display guiding her, telling her when to turn down a side road which she does at terrifying speed, only breaking at the last moment when they reach a biomedical facility.

Murphy staggers out the car, he’s sick and can barely walk. Inside they see little that can help him and struggle to resuscitate him. In desperation Lucy bites him - and it seems to perk Murphy up and make him better. Her bite still has healing qualities - but Lucy has also clearly aged from the bite. She shrugs it off, clearly having experienced accelerated aging before, but everyone else is more concerned

Warren, driven by visions, explores to facility which has ominous posters about universal donors and infinite prosthetics. Some of the dead also seem to be deformed, bodies with multiple heads… and more. She takes a key and goes deeper in. When she reaches an electronic keypad the numbers to open the door flash before her eyes. She eventually finds something and injects herself with it, and takes a cannister of something out of a locked container, again guided by her visions. She ends up in the office of a Dr. Caligari and reads through his files complete with ultra disturbing pictures of people with multiple limbs, heads, other parts and general awfulness.

The rest of the gang go looking for her after Lilley and 10k (now up to 8,001) finish clearing the zombies out front, leaving Murphy and Lucy together. Inside they find lots of disembodied zombie parts wiggling around, restrained zombies with bits missing and other science shenanigans. As Doc observes, science in the zombie apocalypse has taken a distinctly unpleasant turn

There’s also a moment with disembodied moving zombie fingers and Doc’s open wound and I’m just going to NOPE NOPE NOPE this whole scene, thank you very much.

And then they face a zombie with four arms that uses a machine gun - because Z Nation they all flock around trying to kill it but it’s stubbornly resistant and looks ready to kill them - until Warren arrives and addresses the giant zombie by name

He’s Charles, Dr. Caligari’s assistant. She asks the zombie where Dr. Caligari is and he understands and turns and shows him - in a Total Recall twist, Dr. Caligari is a head embedded in Charles. He and his team were experimenting on grafting zombie parts to humans to provide prosthetics and immortality and because there’s nothing so foolish some human won’t do it somewhere. When Charles and Caligari were bitten and Charles died, Caligari cut off his own arm to stop the infection and replaced it with Charles’s zombie arm

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Once Upon a Time, Season 7, Episode 5: Greenbacks

Victoria visits her witch in the tower with an offer of tea, and attempt at nice words and questions about how she stop Lucy believing in everything (so she can resurrect her daughter Anastasia and see her again because of convoluted woo-woo reasons). The Witch responds with some convoluted babble about rooting out belief like a weed and speaking of weed, she wants her “special herbs”.  Which has Victoria sending Ivy out shopping and treating her awfully.

Ivy seems to have finally had enough and contacts Henry to say she’s totally ready to bring evil mummy dearest down. Except Henry is at Roni’s and Roni has views about Ivy in that a) she can’t be trusted and b) Henry needs to be getting it with Jacinda already. To which Henry snarks that Roni isn’t his mother

Hahah yes, subtle there Once Upon a Time, real subtle. Of course her response should be “excuse you, you are only 7 years younger than me!” (actual ages of Lana Parilla and Andrew J West and hey I get magic time jumps and all but in a none-cursed world Roni being all maternal over a guy who is more within dating age range than child age range is a bit weird)

Roni responds by stealing his phone next time Ivy calls and deciding to intercept the meeting and go see Ivy to challenge her for stealing Jacinda’s man and generally being terrible. To which Ivy wants to be clear that not everything’s about Jacinda and she hates her mother too - and to prove it she takes Roni to the secret floor, where they find nothing. The witch is missing. But Roni does find a picture

Later, after Victoria is utterly terrible to Ivy telling her what a useless, awful daughter she is, Ivy returns to the secret room and the witch. She apparently told the witch to hide - and it’s apparent the witch and Ivy are manipulating Victoria, Ivy at least believes she’s the one in charge, not Victoria (by the look on the Witch’s face, she thinks she’s in charge and both Victoria and Ivy are kidding themselves)

Ivy also demands to be called Drizilla, her magic world name. It looks like we have another character who remembers who they were; who was expecting it to be her?

Far more dramatic than a side character being awake we have Roni going to Henry, apologising for all the phone stealing and showing him the photograph she found. It’s a picture of her - but in her Regina days in Storybrooke. She recognises herself, but not the place, her clothes or the boy with her. Henry recognises the boy - it’s him

So they’re going to be all confused about how they don’t remember each other and, hopefully, about how he’s aged but she hasn’t.

The second sideplot involves Killian trying to find Eloise Gardener, the missing girl he’s obsessed with - and one thing he has of her’s is a notebook she doodled in. He sees one of the symbols tattooed on the wrist of someone who was arrested and causing a fuss in the police station - but when he follows up with the man, he insists he got it off a fellow prisoner and it’s supposed to ward off bad mojo. He apparently believes this as he thinks anyone using the rune must be facing something terrible

Van Helsing, Season 2, Episode 5: Save Yourself

For the sake of not dwelling on their pointlessness I’m going to drop in on the side groups first since they’re not actually doing anything

Doc and Axel are still wandering through the wilderness hoping to stumble upon Vanessa. Axel is getting steadily weaker from lack of blood and eventually Doc forces him to feed on her - of course her blood tastes foul but he takes a mouthful. If they don’t find Vanessa soon, Doc will have to kill him. She refuses and he throws all the guild and insults at her, again. And she makes her apologies, again.

Eventually she goes to sleep and has a Vanessa dream, which she then paints in blood. Axel recognises it

While Flesh, Lucky and Mohammed are stumbling around randomly. Despite not knowing where they’re going, Flesh insists they keep moving despite Mohammed’s injuries. They give him cocaine to treat the pain and keep on moving. Flesh has a dream, probably a Vanessa vision, Lucky and Flesh have sex, I wait for these side characters to be relevant.

To Vanessa - and last episode we ended with a big dramatic confrontation with her and Sam. This continues with Sam playing cat and mouse and spooky voice over rather than confronting her directly. It would be frustrating but Sam is really really really good at the creepy so it actually works. While Sam and Vanessa haunt each other, Julius and Mike manage to free all the captives including a deeply traumatised Felix to head back to the camp. Sam escapes and Vanessa helps get everyone back to the camp

She keeps insisting that Sam is her problem though, while Julius wants in on some of this Sam killing action

Everyone’s settled in at the camp but during the night Sam visits to kill and traumatise again. Everyone brainstorms what to do, showing some possible future conflicts as Chloe, the former head of the prison group tries to invoke some authority and is aggressively challenged by a past victim before backing down with Mike stepping in to kumbaya everything. If I didn’t think this group would be irrelevant in the future I’d say it’s a sign of future difficulties

While everyone hunkers down, Vanessa heads out, refusing to stay and rest and eat. She pauses to give Troy some advice on how everyone needs someone which is just ironic. Felix is also there, incredibly traumatised and guilt laden - he wants to help. So Vanessa bites him

Vanessa, please don’t exploit traumatised teens to drink their blood, it’s nasty.

She uses her super powers to catch up with Sam in a church where they have an epic drag out fight. He manages to stab her repeatedly and slowly strangle her - which is when Julius intervenes with a shotgun

Supernatural, Season 13, Episode 4: The Big Empty

This week we have the dead coming back to life to kill the living. Which sets a very bad precedent

Dean sees the case and is all gung ho because another case is exactly what is needed to keeping him from dealing with all the big bad scary feelings that are tearing him up. Sam wants to address those feelings, especially how Jack is a real boy and is trying. Dean is full on  “everything is awful and we’re all doomed and evil” mode but Sam manages to beg him into letting Jack come along

Of course, Sam has to convince Jack as well. He’s still feeling Dean’s hatred and he’s also leery of Sam now after overhearing last week that Sam just wanted to use his powers to free Mary from the alternate hell dimension. Sam pulls out a decent speech about how, yeah, saving their mother would be cool, but even if they didn’t do that that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about Jack anyway. Also if Jack keeps trying he’ll impress Dean, Dean respects effort

I actually think that’s true - and why the current hopeless Dean is so out of character. Dean is all about trying and trying and trying and trying even in the face of impossible odds, even in the face of defeat, even in the face of common sense saying “DON’T DO THIS!” It’s why they’ve nearly created so many apocalypses. It’s why they’ve come back from the dead so often. It’s why they’ve faced knights of hell and Lucifer et al, it’s why he was so pissed at Sam that one time when he didn’t rescue Dean from purgatory: because Dean always always TRIES.

So off they go investigating which also involves explaining to Jack things like ghosts, revenants and why sometimes one has to impersonate FBI agents but yes lying is bad.

Dean has taken to barking orders at Jack like he’s a particularly disliked intern, Sam objects - but it may not entirely be because Dean dislikes Jack (even if that’s a big part) because Sam objects because Dean is acting like their dad - like John (who is, I always maintain, The Worst, come at me John fans). Because this is how Sam and Dean, especially Dean, was raised - barked orders and drill sergeant instead of a parent.

What is curious is that there’s no sign of EMF (ghost) and no missing body (revenant) which Dean burns anyway because of course. I also feel a distinct sense of blase in the research here - Sam and Dean have seen so many of these that they’re defaulting to what it probably is rather than researching… which is probably not a bad thing but to make it seem less careless we could do with more scenes where we see the brothers doing routine ghost slaying, where we see the 9 times where salting and burning bones works so the 10th time it doesn’t stands out as odd

The killing also continues - recently bereaved people being killed by the recently not so dead. And yet again no EMF

Time for some investigating and they find a common thread is Mia, a grief counsellor who worked with both the dead. They go to her, ostensibly to set up an appointment for their own grief - and it’s a trainwreck

Undercover work - with Dean so surly as to make it near unworkable (and, shocking no-one, he doesn’t believe in therapy anyway) - in Mia’s skilled hands turns into actual therapy for the deeply bereaved trio. Sam says he doesn’t think Dean has dealt with the losses (which obvioulsy he hasn’t because he never does) and Dean turns round and lashes out about Sam’s utter denial that their mother is dead in stark terms. Sam breaks and lashes back about how Dean and Mary actually had a relationship, that she would call on him, that they relied on each other (which was true despite the massive drama between them) and now Sam will never be able to have that now. Overwhelmed Sam leaves the room

Which gives him chance to explore the house and find discarded skin hair and blood