It was an unhappy episode for everybody. Cas really is a pawn, Alfie and Samandriel are dead, Naomi is evil, Crowley escaped again, Kevin looks awful, Dean abandoned Benny to his fate, Benny is on his last bag of blood, Sam and Amelia will be miserable with other people instead of with each other, and our boys are eating canned chili waiting for the next round in the never-ending heaven vs. hell grudge match. At least they're talking. I'm starting to realize that I react to emotional distress with snark (since for me, drinking is out). There are days when talking like Dean makes a lot of sense.
The episode was written by Jenny Klein in her first time writing an episode on her own. It was directed by Bob Singer, who's about as regular a director as SPN gets. I'm hoping the goal of this episode was to wrap up the first part of the season that dealt with what happened to everyone while Dean was in Purgatory. That's what it seemed to do as well as cement Crowley and Naomi as the Big Bads for the season.
For me as far as the filming goes, there were some parts that were done really well, like the whole hunt through the warehouse for the sigils. There were also some things that seemed really clunky like a specific zoom in on Crowley's face that has made it's way around tumblr as a gif. bowtrunckle did a really great entry talking about the warehouse sequence and what helped to make it so dramatic. The things I noticed this time had a lot to do with how the episode was lit. There were also some call backs to 8.01 that seem to be working toward some sort of closure there. A lot of the episode was filmed in a way that emphasized things that were obscured or chaotic, particularly faces and backgrounds. There was a lot of red, especially with the demon portions.
There was another guest back from an earlier SPN episode. Looks like the guys didn't keep Evan Hudson demon-free even though they helped him break his deal in Crossroad Blues.
Toward the beginning of the episode, we had a bit with Cas where he heals a baby. I liked how they set things up in a way that you think something bad is going to happen to this baby wrapped in pink and then we get pleasantly surprised. Like we've seen with Cas a lot, there is some sky blue used here as well as red and white. We still think Cas has a certain amount of free will with what he's doing.
If young Sam and Dean had time to play, maybe they looked like this kid.
Light blue frisbee, hoodie and diaper bag.
I'll be interested to see if the use of leaves and greenery drops now that it's fall or if they'll find another way to keep the idea there.
I really liked the way Cas went to get Sam. I know Cas and Dean have some sort of profound bond (interpret however you like) but there seems to be a certain fondness and understanding between these two.
Cas armed Sam with an angel sword. Quite a change for the boy thought of as the Abomination by heaven. Interesting that it now works on demons. I suppose it makes sense. Maybe they always did and it never came up before. I think it's telling that Dean hung on to Ruby's knife rather than give it back to Sam like he did in The End.
All the way through the episode there are bits of red, white and blue until we find out that Cas has no free will at all. There's even a flag on the newspaper website. An entry on the sidebar talks about getting ready for the election so I'm guessing it's set prior to November of whatever year we're in now.
Sam's got free will beer in his room and he's watching a show about dung beetles. I wonder if Sam can identify with the beetle. The screen looks curiously like Fred Jones's brainscape.
The burn victim is surrounded by blue. Somehow Dean managed to get another suit and blue shirt.
The victim, Mr. Hinckley, got burned by a flaming shrub. The Great Hinckley Fire was an incredibly hot, fast moving forest fire that burned through a portion of northern Minnesota in 1894 leaving total devastation and a lot of people dead.
Even at the end of the episode Benny has a lot of blue. He still has choices he can make. There are a lot of bright yellows and reds though.
Garth's tub is red, white and blue.
Kevin's not in blue anymore but he is in possession of all of his fingers again.
Now Kevin has his own hunter's wall.
The background here looks chaotic, even though I'm sure Kevin knows where everything is. The backgrounds are full of jagged lines and shadows throughout a lot of the episode.
Some of those lines and shadows are also prominently placed over faces.
Ironically Cas can see the demons' true faces at this point.
There is still some blue here and a question mark on the wall behind Cas. The futures of both of these characters ride on choices they will make and whether they make them with or without coercion.
This shot makes Sam look like he's wearing some sort of camo.
Alfie's face is obscured by blood and the awful head contraption for most of the episode. He's got that red and white shirt on too. How old is he? Old enough to vote? To drink? I guess we've seen from Claire Novak that the age of consent for angel possession is pretty young. Does he know what's happening or does Samandriel have him sleeping somewhere in his head?
The shadows make interesting marks over Cas's chest.
Before Cas kills Alfie, his face is really dark.
At the end, Cas's face is marked up by his own blood.
The warehouse scenes are full of black and red, shadows and light.
I really like this one.
The boys add to the chaos.
Crossing out the sign announcing safe days.
One of the most striking bits with the shadows and light is that only the white light is smooth circles. The white light leads your eye right to danger.
The white lights are pretty similar to angel lights.
Dean ends up in a circle of light.
Sam ends up with a lot of fence or fence shadows behind him.
None of the bodies fell in the white lit areas.
Every time I see something like this, I think of Sam in the cage.
The whole sequence starts with an up close look at a lock.
Asbestos warning and Sam's about to deliver a hefty charge of red light.
I like the balance with the door.
Right after Cas kills Alfie, he's left in front of this.
There are a couple of other places where multicolored chaos shows up. Benny's lurking, watching this family in pink with green. Vulnerable women and children. The coffee cups have that same swirly chaotic look that the walls at the factory had.
We got another pan up Dean, sleeping with his security beer against that crazy blanket.
The motel room has the plaid.
This is from a couple of weeks ago. Is Fred in front of that wallpaper?
It looks like the room was a set that stayed around for a while. This time, the camera got close enough to the motel room card to see that it's the Arroyo Motel. One definition of an arroyo is a stream bed that is only filled with water seasonally or after a big rain. It looks like that was pretty accurate for Sam. Which brings us to the other storyline that ran through the first ten episodes. The Don-Amelia-Sam-Benny-Dean-Cas mess. Reactions to the beginning of the season have been all over the map. Some folks are loving what Carver is doing. A couple of long term fans who are active on my flist have given up watching SPN entirely. Some other flisters have decided that it's been one long soap opera and are regarding it with varying degrees of annoyance.
I've had a mixed reaction. I haven't hated it, but I haven't had a lot of fun watching either. The Amelia/Sam bit never felt real to me partly because of the body language of the actors and partly because I think they showed flashbacks to the wrong parts of his year away from Dean. I think we needed a montage something like we saw of Dean in Exile on Main Street in his year with Lisa. We needed to see Sam before he hit Riot to understand how he got from the end of S7 to the point where we picked up with him at the vet with a hurt dog. I'm much too cynical and sarcastic to ever take Don's reappearance as anything other than a lazy plot device to break up a relationship that wasn't going anywhere storywise. The only way I'll be able to deal with the whole situation with any sort of seriousness is if Naomi stuck a metal rod through Sam's eye and conjured up Amelia to divert Sam from whatever else he would have spent a year doing. When it comes right down to it, I think I'm spoiled by really good fiction writers that I've run into here that could have told that story in a very compelling way in less than 6,000 words. It played an important part in the episode though so here we are. Do I need to warn for snark?
First off, we got left with a hiatus cliff hanger with Sam at a bar looking completely freaked out that Amelia followed him there. When we got back from hiatus, I expected that we'd catch up with these two at the bar. But no, Amelia came and found Sam, verified it was him and then what? She went home to see Don off because he's been travelling a lot since he's been back from the dead. How did she explain where she ran off to? Don, dear, my creeper of an ex was just outside the window so I'm just going to run to the bar to see if it was him and then I'll be home to see you off for a week. But don't worry, I won't go see him as soon as you leave town. What did she tell Sam? Oh, it is you, creeping around my house....gotta go, I'll explain later. See ya. My old room.
What!?! I waited a month for that? And another Sam and Dean fight? Oh hell, I'm just going to look at the caps.
When Amelia came to see Sam, she was dressed a lot like he does with a shirt over a v-neck tshirt.
From there, they end up in bed. Yeah, if that had seemed to be important in this relationship to this point, I'd buy that. The whole relationship felt so off to me that in this episode, I felt like the show pimped Jared out so we could see Sam shirtless. A little skin to distract us from so little plot. But hey, ratings (despite a twitter backpedal). Fan service never felt quite so off to me as this. I must be getting old and crabby in that get-off-my-lawn kind of way. The next time we see them, Amelia is wearing Sam's shirt. First off, yuck. Sam has been wearing that shirt since before he met up with Martin in Louisiana a couple of days ago. He continues to wear it right through the angel rescue. The last time a woman showed up wearing Sam's shirt after sex, he ended up shooting her. Amelia is a complete contrast to Madison.
Poor woman, now all she is, is bait. I think one of the most important bits about this interaction was that they each took the time to make a choice about where they wanted to be. All or nothing, said the person in the green shirt. You have to commit to something. Amelia ends up in a white shirt, covered in red light. What kind of odds do you give her on this show?
That brings us to the last choices that needed to be made. All or nothing, said the person in the green shirt. Before that though, he had to open the door. It's a sign that you've been hanging around on LJ when you think the letter behind Sam is a P.
In this case, Dean gets the red backdrop and the light is broken up by shadows of leaves. The curtains in this room are the same as in Repo Man, where Lucifer was eating green gunk off the wall and then finally got to Sam.
7.15 - the men's room with beds
You're either in or you're out.
Later on Dean says what we've all been thinking for months now. He's so tired of the fighting. It sounds like he's given up all hope for happiness for himself. Maybe it could work out for Sam. All or nothing, says the person in the green shirt.
There were a few other places where there seemed like there were parallels. Right before they head to the warehouse, Sam and Dean have this glaring face off where the camera zooms in on their faces and then fades to black.
It seemed like clunky, overly dramatic filming but later, it's a nice contrast with the end where the cameras focus on the guys having a wordless conversation.
There are a couple more places that seem like call backs to earlier scenes. In this case, to 8.01 when Sam shows up at the cabin. There was a lot of discussion about how the first part of the season was like a soap opera. At one of the conventions, Jensen talks about how a scene would be shot if it were on a soap. The actor who's talking faces the camera but addresses the person behind him who is also facing the camera. You can watch a vid of it here at about 9:41. It's pretty squick-free. So here are two examples from this season.
The last couple of contrasting shots from 8.01 and 8.10 focus on Sam making food for Dean. In 8.01, Sam offers a bowl to Dean, who refuses. There on the table are two bowls of chili, only one being eaten and a lone bottle of beer. Dean is totally wound up in the hunt and in being pissed off at Sam.
At the end of this episode, Dean's eating the food that Sam made. Same food, same bowls. Dean's sharing beer too. They're also watching something on TV not related to hunting. It's a much more somber version of Bobby's last good memory. It's the last scene in A Very Supernatural Christmas.
When the camera pulls back, we get to see a green cooler. It's as much a symbol of the boys' journey together as the car at this point. It looks like we got an answer to one of the season's early questions. Are you out or are you in? After all of that, I guess if I'm still here, I'm in.
All caps from homeofthenutty and grande_caps