Supernatural: Season 2, Disc 1 review

Without, further ado, I give you the first four episodes of season 2 of Supernatural (and these episodes include some truly amazing titles).

By , Monsters of Television

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    Jensen Ackles, Tricia Helfer and Jared Padalecki star in 'Supernatural.'
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My experience attempting to watch and blog about Supernatural season 1 was a bit of a disaster. I stopped after the ninth episode, and only then wrote about a small amount of the episodes. My time allowed to blog, my time allowed to watch, and how quickly I watch were in conflict with one another. I like doing an entire disc at once, but it’s tricky to write consistently and quickly when you do episodes that quickly.

So after the failure, I decided that the best way to approach blogging about season 2 was to adopt and adapt my methodology for watching the first season of Breaking Bad. Instead of having one post devoted to the entire season and updating it as I go along, each disc will have its own post, with thoughts on each of the episodes on that disc.

So, without, further ado, I give you the first four episodes of season 2 of Supernatural (and these episodes include some truly amazing titles).

Recommended: Culture and Science

“In My Time of Dying” – “Dude, I full-on Swazyed that mother!

Season premieres that come off of cliffhanger season finales are always a tricky thing to balance between resolving the cliffhanger, remaining true to your show’s roots (in this case, working in a procedural hunting element, typically involving a hot woman, and then a brother-to-brother moment by the Impala), and then setting up the themes, beats, and arcs for the new season. It’s a lot to cram into an hour, and while the last one can unfurl a bit over the course of a few more episodes (as it does here), you need to plant the seeds.

“In My Time of Dying” is pretty successful at all of this. I mean, yes, I found it a little weird that Dean didn’t once ask about how the Impala was, but he freaking out about being a ghost, so it makes sense. The procedural portion of the episode was a little less engaging than others, if only because it ends up feeling like it exists so that Azazel can assume control of the Reaper and solve the out of body experience trouble.

At the same time, it does set up the mentality that Dean has during the next couple of episodes (particularly “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”), and coping with both nearly dying and John sacrificing himself so that Dean can come back. Plus, you know, whatever it is that John whispers in his ear that the recap before each episode doesn’t want me to forget about. Ever.

But another point of some season premieres is to make sure that the status quo comes back into play somehow. And given that Supernatural, at its core, is largely episodic, it’s a necessary move. So the Colt and John both have to be removed from the narrative since either element disrupts the structure of the show, and both make it into a different show entirely. And I’m okay with this. The pleasure of the show is both its episodic structure and the serialized relationship between Sam, Dean, and the Impala. And I doubt it’s the last we’ve seen of John or the Colt.

Everybody Loves a Clown- “Planes crash, Sam!” “And apparently clowns kill!

If there’s a weak-ish episode in this run of four, it’s this one. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, but as I write, I find myself with not as much to say about it as either of the episodes that follow it. But perhaps that’s because it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I was expecting it to be. I mean, it’s clowns. Killing people. There’s trauma there, but it felt kind of meh. The fun house showdown was nicely staged (and I liked the use of the brass pipe organs, very clever!), but overall I just didn’t connect to the plot too much.

What I did really like was the introduction of the folks at Harvelle Roadhouse. While pulling guns on potential patrons does not seem like a sound business strategy, I like the idea of the show granting Sam and Dean distant allies in the fight, particularly Ellen. The maternal energy she brings into the show is a welcomed one, but it doesn’t feel out of place in the world either since Ellen seems tough as nails, but with a gooey, protective center (demonstrated in the next episode).

Likewise Ash, the mullet-sporting MIT dropout is a hoot, a nice foil to both Sam and Dean due to his intellect and more laid back attitude. Jo, on the other hand, well, Jo coasts on being Alona Tal in low-riding jeans. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about it either. But hey, what’s an episode ofSupernatural without a pretty young woman? (Answer: It’s not an episode of Supernatural.)

Bloodlust – “So much F’d up crap happens in Florida.”

“Bloodlust”, on the other hand, is an episode I really really liked. It’s not a particularly fresh concept (consumed, sadistic hunter juxtaposed against reformed demons), but it’s one that the show didn’t really hit upon last season, and I was curious when it would. The world Sam and Dean operated in, the world John threw them into, was stark in its moral clarity, and the question of whether or not demons should be killed, if they have a conscience, was never really in doubt.

So “Bloodlust” does a nice, if slightly hamfisted (was it really necessary for Gordon to be black to drive home the metaphor?), job of beginning to engage those questions. It was a little odd these questions didn’t come to light sooner given Sam’s distance from the hunt for so long, and the shades of gray that, as the episode points out, he lives in, but given the urgency behind their search for John, it makes sense for such questions not to come up.

Dean’s shifting moral stance on the issue of these vegetarian vamps (Amber Benson, showing more life as a performer than she ever did on Buffy) does happen a little too quickly, but it plants the seeds for more interesting questions on down the line, questions I hope the show strives to explore more fully in future episodes. What is the morality of the world they live in? Are there more good demons? There must be, yes?

And while I chafe a little at the obviousness of Gordon’s darkness being so literally done, I do value the expanded world that season 2 is constructing with Gordon and the Roadhouse. While we’ve known about other hunters, and even seen a couple, I really dig the idea of the connections between this world being more visible, and why these people have turned to such a dangerous and weird life.

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things- “Nah, I think she went out to rent Beaches.”

I appreciate that when the show made a decision to do a zombie episode, it didn’t go for Sam and Dean fighting off a small town of undead. While that would’ve been a great deal of fun, it wouldn’t have worked at this point in the season. Likewise, it would’ve been a largely impersonal story. Why the episode works so well is the reason why the best Buffy episodes worked.

The monster of the week here serves a larger purpose beyond being creepy (and pretty for the walking dead) in that it helps Dean to begin to work through his guilt (the poor trunk lid of that Impala). It’s an instance I wish the show were a little more subtle, as having Dean repeat “The dead should stay dead” over and over again, and then have him tell Sam that it touched a nerve. Yeah, we know, we’re smart enough to get it.

On the upside, the episode still chugs along nicely and gives us its ideas of what makes a zombie. Indeed, if the only way to kill a zombie in Supernatural‘s world is to silver stake it in its own coffin, then (re)killing a zombie horde is going to be a pain. I dug the fact that zombies kill living plants, it’s a particularly nice touch. But beyond that, she seem like most demons the show has shown: Fast, strong, unstable.

+++++

I was really satisfied with this run of episodes. I doubt this is the last we’ve seen of John in some form, so I’m curious to see how he re-enters the narrative. But the initial story units — Dean dealing with guilt and death of John and establishing the Roadhouse — work well, and I’m eager to see how the show develops these concepts and also introduces new ones.

Noel Kirkpatrick blogs at Monsters of Television.

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