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dean clown

Supernatural ep review - The Third Man (6.03)

Posted on 2010.10.10 at 14:28
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
Tags: , ,
I think I'm starting to like this season.

The Third Man

I’m starting to really buy into this season now – there’s clearly a WTF is going on? scenario taking place, and I do like a good puzzle. My best guess is that there’s a hefty dose of Dean-as-unreliable-narrator underpinning the whole thing – Dean’s perception is being manipulated, by whom and for what end being as yet unclear, as is the extent of the involvement of other characters.

One aspect that appears to being played up is that all the people Dean would instinctively draw closer to (Sam, Cas, the surviving members of his mother’s family, even Bobby) are coming across as cold, unsympathetic – separated from him by their emotional withdrawal. Except for Lisa, who is offering him a home, acceptance, admiration, sex, a ready-made family and unconditional love. Everything, in short, that he would dream up for himself. Either she is an unreal construct of Dean’s mind, or she is an agent of whatever dark forces are at work. Or possibly both. Personally, I’d love her to turn out to be eeeevillll! I really like her, but I don’t trust her at all.

So, to recap.

• Then, apparently, there was still no classic rock. Boo to the eps not starting with fanvids. Little hurrah to the intriguingly spooky music under the Dean-Lisa kitchen scene from last week. Could this be – a CLUE???

• Raphael! This is a good thing – the loosest of the loose ends from last season, one of the four archangels is still out there, unaccounted for, and with a grudge against Cas. Also I did like their Raphael actor, and I hope we’ll get him in the same vessel this time round.

• Now – police locker room. Ah, I’m starting to get attached to these nice policemen already. I can see them becoming recurring characters. Maybe getting their own spin-off series...oh. Ew. Apparently not. EWWWWWWW! This is great – it’s ages since I’ve genuinely had to watch through my fingers. This immediately goes on the list of awesomely unwatchable beginnings, along with the razor-blade swallowing and the power saw in the garage.

• Dean and Lisa getting it on. Good – it’s nice to see it’s not all chaste between them. (Also nice to see so much Dean-flesh, obviously.) Oh, but hang on – just a dream, huh. *rewatches* So what is it that distracts Dean, then, just before he wakes up? That can’t be irrelevant, surely. Sounds like a heartbeat.

• What it definitely doesn’t sound like is the massive truck that wakes Dean up in – THE IMPALA! What I love about this is that Dean clearly hasn’t made contact with Sam yet, judging from the tone of the phone call between them. Dean’s just driven off, parked up and taken some quality time out with his baby. This makes me very happy!

• We have another in the series of brother-comparison montages, and really, it’s a device I like, but two in three episodes may possibly be considered overuse. Having said that, um wow. Jared’s looking pretty toned there, no? Obviously the girl with him is not unimpressed. Oh, she’s a hooker? Hmm. I thought Sam didn’t pay. If this is a shorthand for no-strings sexual relief, I’m pretty sure the canon has already set up that Dean, at least, can get that without buying it. Given the offer the girl makes before she leaves, clearly Sam can too. Come on, Sam – a penny saved is a penny earned, and all that. Also, while I’m here, did anyone else feel the whole silent thing crossed the line into awkward and started to make Sam look slightly retarded? Anyway, details.

• We get our first Sam-Dean interaction at just over 5 minutes in this week, which is much more like it. Sam’s in Pennsylvania, Dean’s eight hours away from somewhere which may or may not be in one of the Dakotas. And I have no idea what that means geographically, except that I’m guessing Dean’s got a fair drive ahead of him. Sam’s still being a dick this ep, it seems. “Who died and made you boss?” Hmm. Good question. My OH (who’s far more into SPN than he lets on, and usually staunchly refuses to get into discussions on deeper meaning) was all over this one. (Burger Heaven! Hee! *googles* New York, huh? Although the logo’s wrong. Just a clever heaven reference, then.)

• Speed trap!policeman’s going to be a goner. Pity really, I warmed to him with his comment about the speeding car (was that a Porsche? *rewatches* Think so.) Euuuch, boils. Back to watching through the fingers, hoping they weren’t going to pop. Also, this is where I picked up the ‘plagues’ theme. And realised just how much scope there was for more messy deaths!

• Dean’s all suited up, always good, and pulls up next to the Douchemobile. Lovely phone convo – “I know you’re lying cos I lie professionally.” Sam makes his by-now-statutory smartass comment about Dean as parent, and if ever there was a moment where some nod to their shared upbringing was appropriate, this would surely be it. I dunno, maybe Sam’s deliberately steering away from the topic. Although he does bring up Lisa, and seems to be under the impression that Dean’s out of there permanently. “Plastic piece of crap”. Abso-damn-lutely. Whatever the respective mileage, and isn’t that a lame comeback?

• The vibe between them is nothing but professional, which lends itself well to case-solving scenes, although Jensen is doing an excellent job of putting across a very subtle sense that Dean is constantly off-balance. Also, I’ve missed his ‘nasty corpse’ faces! And his immediate assumption that icky=witch.

• Dean looks so delightfully smug as he cuts up the Douchemobile, and Sam’s all ‘were you racing me?’ Hell yeah he was! And winning.

• Officer Culfax (sp?) looks proper zombified! Not long for this world, clearly – just a question of which plague will be the most gruesome. I kind of like the partners vibe between Sam and Dean – it’d work just fine if we didn’t know what should be going on between them. Unnecessary door kicking for the win! (Come on, Dean, you know you’re just pissed Sam did it before you could). Love Dean’s “Hey man, you all right?” – NO he’s clearly not, he’s sweating, looks half-dead and is scratching the faces off photos! And scratching his hat. Oh that can’t be good. He survives just long enough to give them a name, and point out this is down to God (which we know can’t be right, unless God’s back off his extended vacation) before keeling over with blood dripping down his face. Sam uses his advanced medical knowledge to diagnose death. Yep, I’d got that one. Now just – don’t take off his – leave the damn hat alone – dammit! Brain-eating locusts, perfect.

• Back to a really rather nice motel room (with a spiky clock that, thanks to caffienekitty, I’m gleefully aware of as a recurring prop) and Sam seems fine with Dean as long as they’re in research mode – this is the most normal they’ve been to date, although there’s still a notable lack of any familial intimacy between them. Sam says angels, Dean says Cas. And decides it’s time to make a call.

• I love this scene, I do. I love that Cas comes when Dean calls, and I know I shouldn’t but I really love that it puts Sam’s nose out of joint. Not just because Dean has been made to look such an idiot by Sam and the Campbells that it’s good to see that redressed slightly, but also because it’s good to see Sam actually feeling something – even if it’s just mild jealousy at Dean’s preferential treatment, it’s a whole lot better than nothing. (Also, hello Sam’s bitchface! Also also, I’m trying not to be shallow, but OMG Dean when Cas appears – just. Beautiful.) That little smug facial shrug Dean does is exactly like one the Trickster or Gabriel did once, but I just can’t place it right now.

• Cas has clearly not lost his social awkwardness, which is definitely a good thing. The comment about the ‘profound bond’ is nicely pitched, giving some welcome fuel for the Dean/Cas shippers, while being nothing more than the truth. And I love the dressing-down Dean gives Cas, and his reminder of just how massive the sacrifice Sam made was – Dean’s fraternal instincts are still very much in place, and I guess his willingness to let all Sam’s little digs and snarks slide is further evidence of this.

• But apparently Cas isn’t there because of their profound bond. The celestial shit is hitting the fan, and someone’s absconded with all the weapons. Including the Staff of Moses. Brilliant! I love it when Show makes me go ‘OMG seriously? SERIOUSLY? I’m expected to buy into what??’ I do not watch Supernatural for its gritty realism! Cas still has no concept of sarcasm, which is wonderful, and his ruling out Moses as a likely suspect is perfect. Goodness, I’m getting through a few superlatives in this section. And that’s even before the quotey fingers bit. ‘Year’ in quotey fingers, and Dean’s reaction. :D

• And now they’re not just solving the case, they’re helping the angels, or specifically Cas’s angelic faction, and probably saving the world (just for a change) because these are badass weapons. And the only lead? Christopher Birch, victim of police brutality, has a father. And it’s about time we got our ‘father’ theme crowbarred in this week. Let’s go and meet him.

• Ooh, Christopher Birch has a little brother who wants revenge. And Cas teleports them right into the living room, which is fun. Cas is definitely being ‘bad cop’ here, even though ‘good cop’ seems to be working fine. And the little brother (called Aaron! That’s another sweet touch) has a sawed-off Staff of Moses, and he ain’t afraid to use it. Dean shows us once again how good he is handling kids, but Cas has other ideas. (And oh, the look on Dean’s face when Aaron says he’s sold his soul. That hurts.)

• Now, this scene is disturbing. Show has tended to stop short of harming children, but they’ve edged towards it more than once, so I suppose it was inevitable they’d go there in the end. Cas, at least, really looks as if he’s unhappy about it, and genuinely wants Dean to understand that this is absolutely necessary. Sam – well, it’s an exact parallel with Dean’s appeal to him over Nancy-the-virgin’s fate back in Jus in Bello, and Sam’s response then, which adds weight to the idea that Sam is somehow being controlled. (Jesus, that kid is all too good at the pain-acting).

• Balthazar. Hmm, he was one of the three wise men in the nativity story. Also, IIRC, a demon in Buffy! (I suspect this second is pretty irrelevant, but it’s interesting to note that Buffy!Balthazar derived his powers from an amulet.) Anyway, seems Cas had a tail, who now knows about Balthazar too. And is working for Raphael. Goody!

• Angel fight! With angel blades! Which get discarded during the fight, so presumably Sam and Dean have an angel blade each now. And Cas and the other angel go hurtling out of the window, followed by THUD, followed by car alarm, and – oh please – yes – Douchemobile is no more! ‘Silver lining’ – oh Dean, if Sam was feeling himself right now that’d earn you a smack! *giggles*

• Cas is, of course, unharmed by the drop, and returns for some much-needed exposition about Raphael and just how bad things have got in heaven, while carrying out some angelic Balthazar-location spell. Involving Dean’s blood, and the way he manhandles Dean and cuts him without so much as a ‘May I?’ is just hot hot unacceptable. Also, Cas is really growly! Oh, and the Apocalypse is back on, apparently. Knew they couldn’t just let that one drop! I love Cas’s confession that he was ashamed. Cas may be rather more distant now, but he’s still unfailingly honest.

• OK, so Balthazar. I don’t like him. Which is to say, I know we’re not supposed to like him, but I don’t like how he comes across. (Like with Nick!Lucifer, I didn’t like him as a character, but I loved the portrayal and the actor.) Here, I want to see what on earth it is that Cas sees in him, but all I’m seeing is a dick. Maybe it’s because, being English, I’m immune to the accent. But this is a shame, because Balthazar’s been set up to be a recurring character, what with his having all the angels’ toys. (IMDb shows me he’s Sebastian Roche, and I remember him now from 24:Redemption. That’s as may be.)

• Either way, Balthazar says they’re brothers and he wants to help, but not necessarily by doing anything practical like oh, say, giving up the Weapons Of Doom. He doesn’t seem all that friendly, rubbing Cas’s face in the fact that this mess is all his fault. But he does say Cas has given them all total freedom, which reminds me of a line of thought I had about this. Must try and remember to come back to that.

• YES! It is the same Raphael, looking positively natty all suited up. Balthazar makes himself scarce, and we wonder what’s happened to Dean and Sam. Oh there they are, setting traps and kicking angelic butt. Cas takes out Angel Henchman #2 almost before he’s finished saying ‘I don’t want to hurt you’, but Raph’s there too, and he treats Cas to a full-on beatdown. Clearly, whatever status Cas now has in heaven, Archangels are still a damn sight more powerful. But not as powerful as Balthazar’s junk! (heh heh he said junk). Yep, Balthazar saves Cas’s ass and Raphael’s vessel is reduced to salt. Damn.

• Apparently whatever weapons Balthazar has available are negated by the judicious application of holy fire. Which is handy, plotwise, even if it doesn’t stand up to a vast amount of scrutiny. Anyway, Balthazar shows the usual angelic disdain for humans, leading to a lovely moment of Cas showing how proud he is of Dean, and demonstrating that whatever allegiance he had to Balthazar as brothers-in-arms has now been transferred to Dean (‘I believe the hairless ape has the floor.) Nevertheless, he is somehow intimidated enough to give the kid his soul back. Where this whole business of angels collecting souls will lead, who knows? That ‘souls have power’ thing certainly wasn’t just an idle crack. Oh hey, angels are collecting souls, Campbells are collecting monsters. I’m sure it’s coincidence.

• And Balthazar and Castiel are suddenly not there (Castiel having cleared an unspecified debt to Balthazar by freeing him) so it must be time for the end-of-episode chat. Sam’s moving back into the Impala! He sees Ben’s Hallowe’en mask, and for the first time manages not to say something disparaging. This has to be seen as a good sign. At least I hope so.

• Dean tries to give Sam the third degree about his attitude to child torture, but gets absolutely stonewalled. I mean completely. No ‘I agree, it was awful, but we had no choice’, nothing. Even his ‘You’re wrong’ is just put out there with no backing statement. Dean, left with nowhere to go on this, tries a different tack – just going for the unvarnished truth. Yeah cause that’s always worked so well. In contrast to last week, this time there’s no real doubt that Sam is withholding something major from Dean. His excuse that he’s been hunting non-stop for a year would work a lot better if he wasn’t talking to the person who was by his side when he was hunting (almost) non-stop for five years. And, while I support Sam’s right not to share, throwing it back at Dean in that way (Hell messed you up, doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone) is cruel.

• And you know what’s really awful? The look on Dean’s face when Sam says ‘we’re different’. Like he’s finally accepting how true that is, and that there might not be a way back. Oh, it’s painful – no reaction to speak of when Sam won’t share, no reaction to Sam’s implication that he is stronger than Dean, but this? You can see the hope die. And off they go – together, but utterly apart.

So, yeah. A lot of food for thought in this ep, and a lot added to the overall arc of the season. And no Campbells, which has to be seen as a bonus! And I’m left thinking. In the car at the end of Season 5, Cas asked Dean which he wanted – peace or freedom? Which, at that time and in that context, made little sense. But now, it seems more and more that Dean is having to make that exact choice. And I have to say, I don’t see much peace in Dean’s future.


kimboosan at 2010-10-10 16:14 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, awesome recap. I pretty much agree with everything. I am TOTALLY on board with Dean being an unreliable narrator; I mentioned to Cande that I'd be pissed if this was all a Dallas/Who Shot JR? dream sequence, but I don't think it is, really. Still, Dean did not see Sam until he had been poisoned by the djinn and as you so insightfully pointed out, no one is coming across as "right" to me - not Bobby, and not Sam, certainly.

People are saying "Sam changed!" and using that to explain his behavior, but I'm not buying it completely. Sam with a hooker? Back in 4x01 he was proud to tell Dean he didn't have to pay for it. Sam lying/withholding from Dean? Sam's not stupid, he learns from his mistakes. Sam cool with child torture? Uh...NO. This is the guy who wanted to sing "Kumbahya" with vampires. Yes, yes, Sam has definitely changed, but I think something changed him, if that makes sense; this is not a rational character development for him AT ALL based on season 4 & 5. Your point about his excuses being limp-wristed at best is EXCELLENT.

Lisa as evil? Hmmm. I'm still banging the drum that all the "Dean playing daddy" references in 6x02 and this long distance thing is all leading up to Lisa getting pregnant with Dean's kid, but the promo for next week makes me wonder. Either way, I agree that she's somehow key to what Dean is going through, purposefully or by being used. The angels got John and Mary together for their own purposes; there is precedence here. *ponders*

But he does say Cas has given them all total freedom, which reminds me of a line of thought I had about this.
There was something Biblical and profound about that whole discussion laying everything at Cas' feet. I'd like to believe that show will follow up on it, but my confidence about that is low. Still, I think it would be significant (to God if no one else) that Cas paved the way for angels' independence. Cas is clearly meant for great (and possibly terrible) things, whether he gets that or not.

Great essay! Thanks!
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2010-10-10 22:22 (UTC) (Link)
I'd be pissed if this was all a Dallas/Who Shot JR? dream sequence

I've not completely discounted this yet, but I'd be very disappointed if this were the outcome. In the end, there are afew too many things that have happened outside of Dean's immediate awareness - Samuel and co. capturing the Djinn being the main one. I mean, if this is a dream sequence then Dean can dream anything, I suppose, but it really wouldn't make good narrative sense. So I'm hopeful on this point.

something changed him, if that makes sense

It makes perfect sense. The contrasts with previous seasons canon are frequent and obvious, and clearly there to be picked up on. And I like to think (in my blindly optimistic way) that the writers wouldn't just head down the well-trodden 'something's wrong with Sammy' road without having something to back it up. I'm convinced that some outside influence is at work here, and the mystery surrounding Sam's return just convinces me more. And I think that's Dean's opinion too, for what it's worth.

Lisa getting pregnant with Dean's kid

Oh God please no. Soap-tastic! I don't really think Lisa's evil, although I admit I enjoy the idea, but the perfection she offers is just too easy and I'd be surprised if there wasn't something going on under the surface there.

Cas is clearly meant for great (and possibly terrible) things

On the strength of this ep, I love where they're taking Cas. There's so much scope for heartbreak in how his intentions are interpreted. And I do love me some angst!

Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough comment - I'm glad you got something out of my ramblings! :D

(Incidentally, I've been toying with linking these recaps at spn_mongrels, since I feel bad about my lack of contribution there - would this be appropriate content, would you say?)
kimboosan at 2010-10-10 23:28 (UTC) (Link)
YES YES please link these at Mongrels! ♥

One thing Cande brought up was the idea that Sam doesn't have a soul anymore - technical details of how he might still be alive without it notwithstanding (this is SPN! Everybody wave your hands!), I really *like* that idea as an explanation. Hiring hookers, not caring about torturing a child, being distant with Dean: without a soul, he would not FEEL the emotions that would otherwise underpin those situations such as shame, compassion, guilt, or fear. He's like an automaton who knows what he is supposed to care about, but like a sociopath, he simply doesn't. If that's the case, then I would guess that he's made some kind of deal to get it back, which would be interesting, and would explain why he's not talking to Dean about it.

I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2010-10-11 17:59 (UTC) (Link)
I'm rolling round to something approaching this conclusion myself, and have been doing sporadic rewatches with this in mind. Sam's not entirely without emotion - he appears to feel fear when facing a fight, he definitely felt annoyance at Cas not coming to him, and there seems to be some disappointment at Dean choosing to stay with Lisa (plus the snark he gives about this subject smacks of jealousy).

What he seems to be missing is the emotions linked to empathy - there doesn't seem to be any real understanding of the concept that others have feelings. Which could easily be a side-effect of soul-tampering. As for how aware he is of the changes to himself - I don't think he fully understands what's happened to him, but I do think his prevarication implies that he has some memory he's not sharing.

I love having this much to speculate about - I just hope Show lives up to the effort!
kimboosan at 2010-10-11 18:24 (UTC) (Link)

What he seems to be missing is the emotions linked to empathy

Which is, actually, almost sociopathic. The only emotions we see from him are only in regards to himself, as you point out; and I can't get around being alive without a soul at all. So tampering sounds more likely, you're right - Hell sliced up his soul, and only let him keep parts of it?

I love having this much to speculate about - I just hope Show lives up to the effort!
YES! I love this stuff...more than I usually do with any other other show. Oh, SPN, you OWN me! LOL!
blythechild at 2010-10-15 15:21 (UTC) (Link)

locker room blood squish FTW

Okay, so I finally saw this episode last night (why is Canada a week behind?!?).

My OH and I were discussing the change in overall tone last night and he pointed out that one of the producers left at the end of last season and that one of the show's objectives for this (final?) season is switching gears to get away from the popular themes of past seasons (brother!angst, random apocalypse hopelessness, a re-focus on demon hunting etc.). I think that this explains the lack of elements like classic rock, intimate brother moments and a return to truly scary/horrific moments.

Most of the things that you liked about this episode, I hated and vice versa. I think that it comes down to the fact that I prefer Sam over Dean consistently. But YAY! Cas is back!!!! OH and I did a little dance of joy in our living room (yes, geekery is an equal opportunity illness at my house). I don't find Raphael compelling at all but, then again, if he's meant to be "traditional", I guess he'd lack the personality of Zachariah for example. Balthazar is awesome (I love Roche and he just got killed off in his returning role on Fringe, another one of my obsessions). The boys need allies; Cas can't do alone, right? Balthazar slots into the hole that Gabriel left: sarcastic, helpful?, with cloudy motivations.

The thing that disturbs me the most about the show now is the tenacity with which the writers are sticking to the "changed" character roles of the brothers. I personally find Dean being just as douche-y as Sam but because we know more about his motivations, and that his douche-y-ness is coming from a more normal place (house in the 'burbs, a girlfriend and child), it seems more acceptable than Sam's.

As for the final scene where Dean challenges Sam on the child torturing business and talks about their experiences in hell - well, Dean has always been judgmental about Sam. Maybe it's an older brother perogative. I think that it's fitting that Sam basically tells him that they aren't the same and that they have been shaped by their experiences differently. So he doesn't want to talk about the Cage? So what? Dean didn't want to share after he came back from hell either even though he knew that it alienated Sam. Dean needs to suck it up and keep his eye on the ball: dealing with the possibility of an apocalypse revival and the f**king Campbells. I admit, that I love Dean as a father figure, but I can't stand Lisa - she's too... accepting. (I worked with Cindy Sampson in the mid-90s and I confess, that I can't see her as anyone but Cindy)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2010-10-15 19:19 (UTC) (Link)

Re: locker room blood squish FTW

Wow, loving the detailed feedback - thanks! :D

I think you're right that the fact that I tend to be drawn more towards Dean does have an influence on what aspects I like more - although I adore Sam too, and I've never really understood the insistence from parts of the fandom that it has to be one or the other!

I'm waiting to be convinced about Balthazar, and he could fit very neatly in the gap left behind by Gabriel (although I'd rather just have Gabriel back *sniff*). So far I'm not seeing it, but a lot of others are, and I'm perfectly willing to do a complete u-turn on this at some later point.

The thing about the conversation at the end, for me, is not in any way that Sam doesn't want to open up to Dean. I absolutely defend his right not to talk, as being (as you point out) the same right Dean exercised in S4. And after all, the 'no chick flick moments' was Dean's rule in the first place, a rule he stuck pretty well to for 3 seasons (I sometimes think if S1 Dean met S5 Dean he'd just punch him on principle!) It's more the way Sam's not talking that concerns me - he is very calm and matter-of-fact, downright cold at times, and while all that can be explained away it does come across as OOC in terms with the Sam we've got to know up to this point. I am pretty much convinced there's something about Sam that we're being led towards.

(I don't really agree that Dean should just suck it up, though - he's worried about his little brother, that's just a natural response, and he wants to get to the bottom of it and try to help put it right. I don't think either of their positions on this are wrong.)

Lisa is definitely too accepting. I choose to view this as suspicious rather than disliking her!
blythechild at 2010-10-15 19:42 (UTC) (Link)

Re: locker room blood squish FTW

I, too, believe that the writers are leading us towards some big Sam revelation but I think that there is a lot to be said for your theory of S6 being viewed through a Dean lens. I dunno what the lad expected when his little brother came back from the dead but it's clear that this isn't it and there's a lot of Dean-is-pissed-off seeping into their interaction as a result. I think that something has changed in Sam, no doubt, but I also think that at least half of that is some maturing on his part - being self-sufficient and alone for a year. He always chaffed against Dean's protection - I think that Dean is upset that Sam doesn't seem to need him as much. What would their relationship be like if they had mutual confidence in each other?

*headsmack* What am I saying? That would be dangerously healthy and lacking the expected homoerotic undertones... where would we be then?!? ;)
quill_lumos at 2010-10-24 19:13 (UTC) (Link)
Really enjoyed your review and am delighted to find another British SPN fan. I hope you are going to comment on 4 and 5?

Have friended you, just in case
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2010-10-29 19:53 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I am intending to do reviews on most/all of the eps, but then good intentions are all very well. I've been away for a week, so I'll try and catch up as and when. In the meantime, I'm delighted you enjoyed this one, and I'll gladly friend back, although I'm not the most prolific LJ-er! :)
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