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Supernatural ep review - Live Free or Twihard (6.05)

Posted on 2010.10.30 at 22:08
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I'm a little behind on these reviews, owing to spending a week in the desert (there's only the one in Europe, apparently, and it's a darn sight warmer than England!) in an attempt to eke out the last seconds of summer. So I'm skipping ep 4 for now, with the intention of coming back to it, and jumping straight to ep 5 (the one that aired last week in the US).

Live Free or Twihard

I’m trying hard to pretend I wasn’t completely spoiled for this episode (Dear TV guide people, it doesn’t matter if your summary is short – if it says ‘Dean turns into a vampire’, that gives the game away. That will be all.) but I loved it anyway. A great monster-y episode, but underpinned with that unbalanced sense of what-the-hell-is-going-on that I’m really coming to like about Season 6.

• THEN. Lots of previouslies of people getting turned into vamps, so I’d probably be getting the idea even if I hadn’t been HORRIBLY SPOILED, THANK YOU TV MAGAZINES. Also a bit of domestic!Dean, a bit of Samuel (ah well, it’s been a while, I suppose that’s the most non-Campbell time I could have realistically hoped for) and a fair bit of is-Sammy-OK speculation. I like the is-Sammy-OK storyline, not least because it seems to be causing the most fandom controversy (which is always fun! *g*), so that’s a win for me.

• NOW. I should probably clarify at this point that I have absolutely no interest in Twilight, and only the barest interest in True Blood, and I haven’t really been that up for vampire romance since Buffy (and that was only because Spike was awesome). So this scene in the bar with the girlie and the vamp dragged for me. I lived with it because Show was obviously pointing out the douchiness of the situation, but that girl could have died several minutes earlier, for my money. (I was initially hoping that the girlie would turn out to be the vamp, though). To be fair, given that the scene was clearly intended as a parody (and one with, as it turned out, a pretty dark context), the actors did a good job with it.

• Ah-ha! Dean on the phone to Lisa. This pleases me, again because of all the fandom comments I’ve seen along the lines of ‘Yeah OK, Lisa whatever, but if they show loads of Dean-phones-home scenes I shall be displeased!’ Of course they’ll show him phoning home, and of course it’ll bear some relevance to the episode. (How much more phone contact we’ll see is an interesting point, but we’ll get to that). Sam rocks up with some Missing Person posters, which Dean declares ‘cute’ (because apparently ice cream comes in ‘jailbait’ flavour among others, and really Dean, you’re 32 and these are teenagers – and I feel I have to point out these things because Sam no longer does bitchface at Dean’s inappropriate humour). Although the banter here is nice, natural-feeling; one of those moments we get sporadically which make me think maybe Sam’s not weird at all, maybe he’s just more his own person now. Before he goes and does something even weirder and blows that theory out of the water again!

• The scene with the missing girl’s father (and there’s our father motif again) is uncomfortable – neither of the boys seems to be able to dredge up any sympathy for the man. Of course, Sam was always better at that, part of what he now seems to be missing (empathy), but a word or two of comfort wouldn’t have been hard from either of them.

• So the girl is obviously vampire obsessed, and the meta in this scene is a lot of fun – Dean reading aloud from the book is a delightful moment, and Sam telling him to shut up, and Dean completely ignoring him, was a sweet little glimpse of how things used to be between them. Most of the references went over my head, to be honest – I got all the ‘Robert’s and ‘Pattinsons’, but Lautner, Romero, and any others that may have been dropped in were lost on me. (*googles* OK, Lautner’s another Twilight actor, and Romero produced Night of the Living Dead. See, I know loads about vampires now.) Still, I enjoyed this just for Dean’s attitude to the whole culture, which pretty much reflects my own.

• While we’re here, I am delighted by how the Twilight-style vamp culture has been worked into SPN canon. Sure, poking fun is all very well as far as it goes, but would get old quickly. But this idea that ‘real’ vampires would exploit the explosion in popularity of the vampire mythology in this way is highly credible. Of course they would – they’re intelligent, ruthless, soul-less and constantly hungry.

• Vampires knocking off the blood bank van. I’m sure this is referencing something. *googles* Vampire Diaries, apparently. Wow, I’m learning a lot this episode. (Actually, I’m pretty sure they did this in Buffy, but I’m deliberately ignoring Buffy overlaps, just because there are so many of them).

• Sam’s checking in with Samuel, who’s 100% sure it’s vampires. Seriously, Sam – you needed to confirm that? (I had to watch the first part of the conversation several times before I worked out that Samuel was saying “Clincher is...” - I was a little confused as to why he said ‘clitoris’ in the middle of an otherwise case-related talk.) I’m not sure I follow Sam’s line of reasoning here – just because they’re killing teenage emo chicks doesn’t mean an alternative blood supply line would be a bad plan. Belt and braces. But they need to find the nest anyway, so no matter.

• And it’s off to the Black Rose. *googles* *gets bored at plethora of references* *spares nostalgic smile for Assassins’ Guild from Babylon 5*. I think I recognise this club from fanfic! Dean tries a little do-you-remember chat, but really, the best time for those types of discussions is probably not the middle of a stakeout. (Heh, vampires, stakeout, geddit? - *sigh* no, it doesn’t work in SPN canon anyway). They identify two possible suspects, and split up (NOOOOO!!) to tail them.

• Go Sammy! For all I’m convinced there’s something up with him, this move on the vamp counts as standard badassery, of the sort that’s presumably pretty useful for hunters if they want to continue to survive, and since no-one would think twice if Dean did it, Sam gets my admiration rather than consternation here. (Although I did think it would have been interesting if Sam had turned round to discover that the expertly decapitated corpse wasn’t actually a vampire at all.)

• Meanwhile, Dean has managed to corner the wannabe with the plastic teeth, and is adorably scathing. (Already his guard’s too far down, though – nothing so far has ruled out girl!vamps, and I was half-expecting the girl who had run off to come back on the attack). Having advised the lad to ‘mmm-bop your way out of here’ (hee!) Dean heads back towards the club, only to be stopped by Boris the Real Vampire speaking on behalf of the entire world. “You’re pretty”. Just facts, that. Again, though, Dean is caught off guard, and one has to assume that if Boris had opened with something like ‘You’re dead, dude’ there would have been more of an instant defensive reaction. I hesitate to involve myself in discussions over attitudes to homosexuality, but I do think there is something of an equation in Dean’s mind between gay and non-threatening. A costly one, as it turns out.

• Boris goes on to prove that Dean continues to be pretty when hurtling through the air, when dragging himself up off the floor and when being thoroughly beaten up. (This last we could all have told him anyway). And then...

• Dun dun DUNNN! (Incidentally, I really want that as my incoming text sound on my phone, but I can’t find it, so if anyone does, let me know!). Sam shows up. Screeches to a halt. Looks horrified. Moves forward, and then...stops. And there is just no way to pretend there is anything right about the look on Sam’s face as he watches while Boris rips open his own arm with his teeth (which, ewwwww, by the way) and bleeds into Dean’s mouth. And Sam is openly standing there, in Dean’s line of sight and everything, although hopefully Dean’s distracted by the whole being turned into a vampire thing. Finally, finally, when there’s no chance of preventing the harm being done, Sam scares Boris off. Not that Boris seems all that scared, but then he’s got what he wants. Sam has his concerned look pasted back on, and Dean looks like this:

• Back at the motel, Jensen does an excellent job of putting across Dean’s growing claustrophobia and panic as the vampire blood takes effect. Very similar, actually, to the Yellow Fever symptoms – the loud clock, presumably, being a deliberate call-back. And under it all we hear this strong, slow, steady heartbeat. Dean says Sam has refused to kill him, and Sam says they can figure it out – all very BUaBS, except that when Dean was refusing to kill Sam he was upset, panicky, clearly terrified that it might actually come to that. Sam seems confident throughout that killing Dean is unnecessary. You’d have to say it seems likely he knows something Dean doesn’t – which, if true, makes his reticence extremely cruel. (The way he asks ‘How does it feel’ is weird as well – ‘How are you feeling?’ in a tone of concern would be unsuspicious, but that guilty half-swallowed ‘how’s it feel?’, as if he knows he’s wrong to ask but can’t help it – odd.)

• Now, the one scene in this ep that doesn’t work for me is the Lisa visit. Dean seems extremely aware of himself as a potential threat, and while I know he was all geared up for a conjugal visit, and he now thinks he’s about to die and won’t see her again, I honestly don’t think he’d have gone round there in that condition. Especially with Ben there. Sure, he’d have phoned, and probably explained everything since she has a good working knowledge of his hunting life. But even when he gets there, one of the first things he says is ‘I can’t bring this home to you’. But he just has. However, it’s all great from a meta point of view – we get Dean watching Lisa sleep (rapey) and doing that brooding Pattinson thing (although for me it’s more Angel than Twilight) as well as reprising the ‘I gotta go’ think that Robert-in-the-bar did at the beginning. So yeah, I get the point of the scene, but I tend to get a bit edgy when Show overlooks the OOC behaviour in order to make a statement.

• In the meantime, Dean’s behaviour towards Ben has to make it pretty unlikely that Lisa will have him back without a lot of reassurance. Doesn’t it? Surely? In the face of direct threat to her own child? Dean is now looking like this:

• Samuel has turned up in Dean’s absence, and I’m liking him more in this ep – he reminds me of the hunter we first met in 1973. Dean has sneaked back in while Sam’s out letting in Samuel, and is brooding beautifully in a corner, waiting for one or other of the Samuels to man up and do the decent thing. Sam’s attitude in this scene is extremely interesting – he is clearly very worried that they are going to have to kill Dean, and visibly relaxes as soon as Dean says he hasn’t fed, which strongly implies that he already knows the situation is only salvageable as long as Dean doesn’t drink blood. Dean says “Do it” (I cheer because I knew he’d say that!) and looks like this:

which is recognisably Dean’s ‘you’re evil and I hate you’ face of old. Samuel gets bonus points for snarkiness (Sure, I’ll kill you, unless you’d rather I just cure you) and bonus bonus points for having his grandfather’s journal handy!

• So there’s a cure for being a vampire. And it involves getting hold of Boris’ blood. Dean has superpowers now, so he knows where to find the vamps’ nest, but he doesn’t want Sam along for the ride. I like Samuel’s ‘Good luck, son’ – I’m trying not to be naive, but it feels very heartfelt. I’m starting to think Samuel as a father-figure, up to a point anyway, wouldn’t be such a terrible thing.

• And here’s interesting – Samuel calling Sam on his behaviour. And possibly the first outright evidence we have that Sam is lying – Samuel told him about the cure, months back, and Sam’s denying all knowledge. And yes, I suppose there is the remote possibility that Sam really doesn’t remember, but his attitude so far in this ep fits with what we now know of the cure. Either way, when creepy!Samuel starts being suspicious of you, you really are acting suspicious!

• Dean gets into the nest by way of a ridiculously easy front door, and meets up with Robert (I think) who’s all ‘sup?’ and ‘hey dude’. Dean is charmingly inept at acting like a vampire, even though he actually is one (yeah, I killed so many people on the way over here, so...) and valiantly resists the various blood offerings presented to him. Actually, I think the director missed a bit of an opportunity here, to have Dean looking seriously blood-starved – he looks pretty interested, but there’s no real sense of the kind of craving we’ve seen in other recently-turned vamps. Anyway, apparently Dean is now a ‘recruiter’ and gets to go after the emo chicks.

• Dean gets up close with Boris, who’s in the mood for a spot of exposition, and Dean’s thinking nice and quickly (sorry, what’s a hunter?). Boris is about 600 years old, apparently, and he says he’s never had it so good. (Prince Charming with a vulva? Volvo? *googles* Ah, Edward Cullen drives a Volvo. Got it.) So the recruiters get the girls, Boris turns them, has his wicked way with them, then sends them out to recruit more recruiters. Actually rather a neat little set-up. But Boris isn’t the Man at the Top – that would be the Father. See the father thing again? Pretty hard to miss! The window is pretty religious-feeling, and I’m still thinking angel involvement. Employing a great bit of creepy flirting, Boris offers Dean the private tour, which makes Dean look like this:

which reminds me strongly of his reaction to Castiel's 'You should show me some respect', back at the start of season 4.

• Dean, having been offered on a plate some quality time alone with Boris, inexplicably decides to attack him in the main room. And is swiftly disarmed for his trouble. But someone must be watching over our vampiric hero – and it sounds a lot like angel whispering. There’s a bright light from above, and everyone collapses. Including Dean, who has a weird dream sequence that I honestly can’t make head or tail of. Guy sitting on a bench, viewed from behind – reminds me of Uriel. Spooky girl feeding blood to dolls, drawing a blank there. A map of Aurora with lots of blood lines leading to it. I’m guessing that’s significant. And I’m certain Aurora has come up before in SPN, but can I find a reference? Any help on this would be appreciated. Some sort of cell division, I think, leading to two identical spooky girls. [ETA The OH tells me this is a Shining reference. Shows how much I know.] With vampy teeth. And the bloke on the bench might well be the Father.

• OK, one day I’m going to watch that again and it’ll all make perfect sense. Reassured in that thought, I’ll press on, because Dean’s waking up – rolling onto his back to present us with yet another very angel-like image. No time to muse on this now, though, because IT’S BIG FIGHT TIME YAY! And Dean – well, Dean kicks butt!

• Meanwhile, it’s time for the cavalry to put in a singularly unnecessary appearance, and I’m gleeful that the falling corpse manages to miss the Impala and land on Samuel’s van. Dean and the car both have someone watching over them. Sam tells Samuel to ‘shhhh’ when he’s not actually saying anything – does our Sammy have super-hearing? Dean efficiently finishes off all the secondary vamps while Sam’s dragging bodies off the car roof, leaving just an extremely pissed off Boris, and I can see the way this is going – and I’m a little sad, because I actually rather liked Boris. Although I can cope, because Dean is now looking like this:

• And Boris goes out with the line ‘This is much bigger than you and me’, which I think we’d all worked out by now anyway, so he deserves to go just for the unnecessary cliché!

• Sam and Samuel finally show up in time to see corpses all over the damn place. Samuel claims this proves Dean is a Campbell after all, to which I’m going ‘Screw you, he’s a Winchester!’ and hoping that still counts for something in these new times. And Dean’s just sitting there, his foot on Boris’ severed head, in proper badass stance, but when he looks up he looks haunted. I think he’s had enough of being a vampire.

• They take him back to the motel, and get to work on the cure. Noticeably, it’s Sam rather than Samuel who is quizzing Dean on what he saw – Samuel seems more concerned with warning Dean that the cure is going to be unpleasant, which seems far more appropriate at this point. Sam’s priorities do seem to be completely out of whack. Dean knocks back a cup of something that looks decidedly unpleasant, and even worse coming back up – what he’s spewing out looks rather like the stuff Ruby fed him to get rid of the hex effects (wonder if it tastes like ass?). And it makes Dean look like this – yikes!

• The rather horrendous healing process comes with a flashback sequence in reverse, where Dean’s memories of life as a vampire play themselves out. Finishing with the moment where he was turned, and Sam, clearly visible, looking like this:

Yikes again. That is totally not how you want your loving little brother, who's supposed to be guarding your back, to be looking while you're being infected with vampire blood. No wonder Dean's visibly rattled for the rest of the ep.

• Dean comes back to himself, clearly with his memory of Sam very much at the forefront of his mind, and goes to get cleaned up. And as soon as he emerges from the bathroom, still sneaking wary glances at his brother, Sam is all over him to report back. Samuel is still keeping quiet, but is definitely taking an interest, and Dean seems to realise that wanting some answers is natural and enters into the spirit of the debriefing. The vampires have an Alpha, he’s putting together an army, and they’re not scared of hunters. Not great.

• What else isn’t great – although Sam appears pretty pleased – is that Lisa’s not answering Dean’s calls now. Only to be expected, under the circumstances. But it’s all OK, because Sammy says he’ll always have Dean’s back. Which leaves Dean looking like this:


blythechild at 2010-10-31 17:16 (UTC) (Link)
I can't believe that you appreciated that episode without knowing much about vampire references (way to go with tha Google-fu!). The first half was such a huge send-up of post-post-modern vamp motifs that I was laughing hard enough to miss half of the dialog. My husband thought that I might pee my pants or something.

The seasonal and cultural levity is all well and good but I want to get to the 'meat' of the Strange!Sam/Campbells/Post-apocalypse Apocalypse already. Each episode is feeling more and more like a tease that won't pay off in the end. I'm hoping that next week's episode (which you've probably already seen. this is confusing...) will start fleshing it out a little.

I gotta say that I was pretty disturbed at Sam's behaviour in the alley. And, as hubby said, it doesn't bode well when a shifty character like Samuel doubts your motives. Wow, does ANY one trust ANY one anymore? I'm also more than a bit leery of the introduction of the Alpha Vampire Plan for Total Annihilation & Bloody Times storyline unless it ties into the overall post-apocalypse apocalypse theme. I'm a vampire fan since childhood and I even get down with the new sensitive EMO teen vamp stuff (go ahead - laugh - I'll wait...) but SPN doesn't need a vamp subplot. It has carefully eschewed it for the length of the series and doesn't need it now. I mean, what's next - zombies? The one thing that the vampire mindmeld/shared consciousness scene indicated was that there is more to come re: Alpha Vamp, just like there's more to come re: Shapeshifters.

Overall, I'm frustrated with this season thus far. Yes, dark is awesome, but it's also really damned messy.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2010-11-01 00:17 (UTC) (Link)
My theory, such as it is, is that the Alpha is either the same Alpha for each, or that all the Alphas are answering to an uber-Alpha. (And if I had to put money on who's running the show, I'd guess angels). So I don't think there's too much to worry about in terms of a vamp subplot - if there is one, I'd imagine it'll have the same weight as a Djinn subplot or a shapeshifter subplot. (And quite possibly a zombie subplot - I wouldn't be at all surprised to see zombies back). Or I may have the whole thing totally wrong, but I'm OK with that!

I think there are a lot of references that passed over my head - and my word, Google is useful! - but I know enough to get what they were sending up - you'd have to be dead not to have some awareness of Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood and so on. And anyway, since Dean has very little knowledge of the culture, and we're spending a lot of time in Dean-POV, I'm pretty much where he is. (I think what I really appreciated about the send-up is the darker element to it i.e. when you take away the romanticised view you're left with violence, dubious consent at best, and often some very dicey sexual messages, all being peddled to youngsters.)

And I am in total agreement about getting to the meat of the is-it-or-isn't-it New Apocalypse, and the issues surrounding the main characters. Monster of the Week is fine, but is frustrating if you have such massive unresolved central threads. (I have seen the next one, and when the time comes I'd be very interested in your reaction.)

Thanks for commenting! :D
blythechild at 2010-11-01 14:25 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, its so nice to be able to chat about SPN with someone other than my husband (especially when the conversation doesn't include too many squee!s, OMG!s, or dubious texting-engrish).

I think (hope) that your take on the Alpha situation is the correct one, otherwise the whole season is gonna be one big subplot clusterf*ck. And at episode 5 (6?), its time for the dawning of a few answers to some of the big questions already *stamps foot authoritarily and pouts*

I look forward to this week's episode and further discussion while cursing the CRTC for delaying my SPN enjoyment for a whole week.
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