life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rearview Mirror

Well, chickas. It seems that the long and lonely road traveled by the Winchester boys is about to come full circle - again.

I've read with some amusement (a very few of) the proliferation of squee-filled posts and reviews for this past episode, 5.03 Free to Be You and Me chanting the song of the angel - you know, that walking dead thing filled with the spectre of some holier-than-thou ghost.

Good God, Y'all. This is so missing the point. Sorry to break it to some of you, but he's just a vessel. And really, BuddyTV? REALLY? What show have you been watching if you didn't see that coming back - oh, I dunno, halfway thru Season One? Jeebus. If you're looking for a review of this third episode in the fifth season of the greatest show on television that isn't really about website hits and places the side characters firmly in their places, on the sidelines, you've come to the right place.

This, as I really don't have to remind most of you out there, is a show about Sam and Dean.

Firstly, how quickly they forget. There's dearest faithful Bobby, who is literally sidelined for the foreseeable future, having given his body for his son - because family don't end with blood, boy. No, I'm not saying Bobby is really Dean's long-lost Papa. It's just a reference, just a reminder, that in this War that began at the inception of humanity there will always be sacrifices, some of which are very hard to live with because they happen to those closest to us, sometimes to people we don't know how we'll go on without. It's good to see that Bobby hasn't lost his spark, though, and I look forward to seeing him continue to give guidance and even kick Sam and Dean's asses from a vantage point that could actually offer him the chance to see, hear, and maybe even do things that he may have missed from his former standing position. No, really. Watch and see.

Secondly, this loser!Angel. You do realize, that the only reason he's here is to offer some back-up to the boys, and give Jensen & Jared a chance to take a much-needed rest from being two leads in an extremely action-packed, intense fantasy drama. The guys are otherwise going to be completely worn out before their time.

Hmm. I'm sorry he's so annoying, Dean. But is it him or the fact that you'd really rather be doing this by yourself? Yeah, I thought so.

Think of Castiel as a piece of useful furniture. You don't really bond with the furniture. He's provided them with knowledge and cool skeletal tattoos but don't for a second think it's not for his own purposes. He's just as confused as anyone else who can't see both sides of an issue. And don't forget that Dean still has yet to find out just who it was who freed Sam from Bobby's panic room to go kill Lilith and thence allow Lucifer to rise. I really can't wait for when that happens.

But Dean and Sam have parted for the time being, and it's a conscious, deliberate break-up. The brothers had to do this in order to find their way back together. It's in the normal realm of deeply bonded relationships. Dean and Sam need to find out just who each of them is, exactly, and it's much like when Sam went off to Stanford. They were apart for over 2 1/2 years according to the rumors. Think how much each of them grew into his own during that time.

Think how much that's happened in just one episode.

O hai thur, WIAWSNB scene with Sam-as-Dean. Again.

Which brings me to each of them individually: I'll take Sam first. Because UNF. Jesus Padalecki knocked it out of the park, didn't he? From tearful recognition of not!Jess with his still-curious doubt of her mission tinged with genuine love and regret to gutsy, dirty grappling with two desperate hunters from his own side of the team (you know, the confused side), Jared played the gamut of emotional scale with perfection. If anyone is left who thinks this actor can't play just about any type of role he's given, please just watch this episode. Jared has come into his own, and I won't lessen his accomplishment by tangentially referencing his co-star here. Jared makes Sam a living, breathing soul.

And tell me you didn't stand up and cheer when he spat out the demon blood force-fed to him by the two hunters. If you didn't, go back and watch it again. And don't miss the point this time.

See there? The end of 4.20 The Rapture, re-visited. Only he won this time.

This moment was an epiphany for Sam. It is analogous to the one Dean had in 3.10 Dream a Little Dream of Me, when he angrily acknowledges in his fight with himself that the load his father put on him in forcing him to raise his brother and deny so many of his own emotional needs was more than any kid should have had to bear.

It was humanity, rising from the apocalypse.

No, he didn't need the feather to fly. But the seeds of doubt that were planted in him from the moment he knew he'd been fed demon blood as an infant had fertile soil in which to take root, made lush and rich after Ruby's betrayal. Sam didn't know what the blood would do to him. He only knew he wanted it out of him. His body, his choice. In flinging what was forced on him away and acting to defend the innocent Lindsay, Sam was reclaiming his actual birthright as a fully formed human being. Not devil spawn, not his mother's heartbreak, his brother's responsibility, or his daddy's failure.

Hey there, it's Sam's bleeding heart shirt again. That's a clue.

Now Dean. It's easy to miss the boat completely on Dean in this episode. Before I go too far with this analysis, though, let's examine the function of the two angels we saw here: Raphael and Castiel.

Ostensibly, they are brothers (Cas refers to all angels as his brothers, remember), if not in actuality, certainly in past relationships - both fighting for the same team, formerly trusting each other and working together. Quickly, because I'm sure most of you missed it: Raphael, the seemingly stronger angel, killed his brother Castiel, who rose again and came after him because Raph had information Cas wanted, namely the location of God. Or so Cas believed. Ah, because we believe... but I digress (if only slightly).

This would be a roach motel for angels. What else do you think is going on here?

When Cas and Dean trap Raphael, question him and then leave him in the ring of fire, please God - tell me you did not miss the oh-so-very-obvious replaying of the entire scene in Bloodlust where Sam and Dean leave Gordon in the abandoned cabin to stew in his own juice for awhile, and consider the results of his actions. Helloooo, show hit you over the head that it was coming, weren't you watching?

If you did miss it, please go watch episode 2.03 again. Because you're going to miss other things that are coming up soon and then you're going to be completely b'zuhed after that. I saw some pretty out-of-touch analysis of that scene because people missed that. Hi, the dialogue in parts is almost word-for-word. I suppose I should say it again: Show tells, and then it tells us again, and then it tells us it told us, and then it tells us it told us AGAIN. Sheesh.

Hokay. Where was I? Oh, the telling us it told us already. I saw people missed the point of Raphael's "Waaaah! I'm so tired!" soliloquy, too. Okay, maybe you need to watch the entire second season again. RAPHAEL = DEAN. CASTIEL = SAM. In this particular instance. Don't hold that as gospel as we go forward in the season, because if Sam and Dean can play each other and trade places, you know damn well the angels can do the same thing, too.

But back to Dean. I save him for last because this really wasn't his episode, but he is my favorite. I love Sam with the burning passion of a thousand lustful gods, but Dean is - well, I can't describe my love for Dean so that's how I know it's a leetle bit stronger. But right now? Dean needs that serious beat-down he promised Sam in 4.22. Only, he's not gonna get it until he faces his worst demons (again): his own self. That's in an upcoming episode, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. Dean had an epiphany, too, this time. It was perhaps a bit more obvious than Sam's, but it was pretty damn significant.

Again, Castiel was only a part of the furniture here. He was the vessel, the catalyst for Dean to realize something. When show faked you out and made you think it was forgetting its own canon (because please god Kripke, you didn't really forget that angels don't have sex, did you? Clearly you did not. Ahaha.) and Dean takes Castiel to the brothel (because Dean knows the lat-longs for those things in absolutely every state in the Union, duh) the whole point of that was, to get Dean over himself. While Jensen's half-hearted attempt at a belly laugh as the two characters exited the brothel after Cas totally creeps that poor girl rtf out sounded more like bad gas than an honest exclamation of utter amusement, I choose to think it's more because it's physically been so damn long since Dean did laugh, like he claims. He's rusty. But that amazed chuckle was the sign that something had cracked open inside our intrepid warrior, Dean Winchester. It was the sound of the butterfly leaving his chrysalis.

At that moment, Dean sat up, stretched his emotional wings, and flew free of the responsibility he had carried since the age of four: that of taking care of Sam. From here on, Dean is living his own life, free of that emotional baggage. He finally recognized that he's an individual, and it's not so damn bad to live on your own and take care of yourself. Bravo, Dean. Good job.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. And you'd be right. It's not the same. But it's not time yet. The river of Sam and Dean is an oxbow right now. Be patient. All rivers straighten out eventually.

So. To recap: In this episode Free to Be You and Me, what did that mean, exactly? Sam accepted his loss and reclaimed his humanity, and Dean learned and accepted the fact that he is an individual. Dean hunting with a disadvantaged idiot savant who blurts intelligences at odd moments and can't button his own collar may feed the fantasies of a certain set of unenlightened minions but it doesn't mean Dean has replaced Sam. In fact, it's quite obvious that Dean's only way of having fun with Castiel is to either make fun of him with obscure pop-culture references or by putting him in impossible situations (where our Sam, btw, would have been right at home). When Cas is in the room, it's easy to ignore him by looking at something far more interesting - like the ceiling, the floor, or the walls. You can listen to what he says as he parrots things past characters or one of the boys has said to each other, you can thank him for his obscure skeletal talisman-tattoos. He's semi-useful like that. But don't be looking for him to replace brother for brother.

In this universe, only what is real stands the remotest chance of survival.

Don't be looking for any of this to happen, either. Much as it may be fun to think about. And really nice job, Mark Pelligrino. I approve of this casting.

Screencaps by Marishna

Useful links
SupernaturalWiki page for this episode
All Supernatural episodes are available for download at Amazon - Checkit! No watermarks, and in HD, too!
Previous metas at susannaheanes' LJ

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Carry On

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely...” --Emerson