Thursday, February 8, 2007

Supernatural—Born Under a Bad Sign

I don't know why it's so much harder to review shows I really like than ones I'm not quite so invested in. Maybe because I have to fight the urge to squee like a fangirl. So maybe if we get it out of the way up front--this was just--wow. Really, really good. Awesome. And I chewed off all my fingernails.

On to attempt a review.

This season has been moving toward the possibility of Sam going bad, driven by his unexplained connection to the Yellow Eyed Demon. And tonight we face this head-on.

We open with Dean looking for Sam--he's been missing for a while. Dean finally gets a phone call and goes to meet Sam, who's in a hotel room covered in blood and with no memory of what happened. Following what little they can dredge up out of Sam's fuzzy memory and jacket pockets, the boys end up at a storage locker. Inside is a VW Bug (so uncool) full of blood and a bloody knife. Following the trail, they discover Sam has been a Very Bad Boy. He's been smoking, and if you ever watched Buffy, you know that means he was evil. They finally make their way to a house, where they find the body of a Hunter. Sam is certain he did it, and it appears the victim was a Hunter. Security tapes clearly show Sam slitting the man's throat.

Convinced he's murdered the Hunter, Sam begs Dean to kill him. He's been suffering from random attacks of rage and hate, which he feels are trying to take him over. The Yellow Eyed Demon is finally making a play, turning Sam evil to serve his grand plan.

Only on this show could they have an intensely powerful, emotional scene in the middle of a hotel room full of weird trout pictures.

Dean, of course, refuses to kill Sam, determined to save him, instead. Obviously following another agenda, Evil!Sam pushes Dean right to the edge, threatening Jo, then begging Dean to kill him so he won't kill her. Jared Padalecki's performance is chilling here, reminiscent of David Boreanaz's Angel/Angelus tour de force in Season Two of Buffy. Jensen Ackles is equally good, as Dean fights to save his brother from what turns out to be a demonic possession. Jo's involvement added a lot to the story this time, too, instead of feeling a bit added-on, as some of her other appearances have. The twist--which isn't that much of a twist but it doesn't even have to be because this episode is that good--is that the demon now possessing Sam is the same demon that possessed Meg last season. He (or she) is after revenge--the Winchester boys sent him back to hell, and he wants to return the favor in terms figurative or literal or both. Again we're told John is suffering in hell. They've dropped this tidbit too many times now for it to not have some relevance on how the rest of the season will develop. Of course, there's the question of whether the demon's stories can be trusted. Did he tell Jo the truth about how her father died? Is he telling the truth about John's whereabouts? Or is all this just a demony way of messing with the Hunters' heads, throwing them off their game?

The rapid build toward the climax was masterfully written--the commercial break after Sam knocked Jo unconscious nearly gave me a stroke. And the climactic scene between Sam and Dean, with Evil!Sam torturing Dean, and Bobby's final rescue--wow. Really well-played by Ackles and Padalecki. And just enough humor sprinkled through the final, most intense scenes to vary the mood without breaking it.

Overall, a very strong episode, one that seems to be setting us up for a powerful second half of the season, as the question of Sam's good versus evil status is explored further, and hopefully more is revealed about the Yellow Eyed Demon's plans and the coming demon war. (This is conjecture--I've remained largely spoiler-free--but it does seem like the direction they're going.) I really only had one quibble--if Bobby had charms to fend off possessions, mightn't this have been a good thing for them to have earlier? That bit seemed a bit forced, but I have a suspicion it'll come into play later.

Next week's episode looks like a good departure after the intensity of this week's episode. I love the way they're playing with the formats of the trailers, going beyond a simple "Next week on..." to have a little fun with them.