Some Thoughts on Supernatural

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First things first

Before we get into this, I’d like to add a disclaimer. Though my friends and family are well aware of this, the internet is definitely not, so let’s clear something up. I love Supernatural. I love Sam and Dean. I love Castiel, and Crowley, and all the other characters, big and small, who have made the show what it is. I love and respect the writers, for bringing this story to life on screen. Supernatural is one of my favourite TV shows, and has been there as a support for – and often escape from – some issues in my personal life.

That being said, I don’t love the show so blindly that I can overlook the past few seasons. Again, just my opinion, but I think the show’s quality has dipped. Pretty dramatically, too. Which, as an avid fan, is sad, frustrating, and just a bit disappointing. Not having anyone around me who loves the show as passionately as I do, I found myself with a lot of thoughts on the matter and no clear outlet to express them. And then, I remembered my blog. Instead of inflicting this rant upon my loved ones, I could put it out onto the internet instead. Because people love opinions on the internet – right?

 

Growing pains

That Supernatural has ‘changed’ in itself is not the problem for me. No TV series could run for thirteen seasons and be the same now as it was when it started. Nor should it be. You’ve got to move with the times, and all that. Growth is as vital to a show as it is to anything in life. It’s like watering a plant. The show was well watered in the beginning, and bloomed into something new, exciting, and engaging. It grew naturally – organically – because the plot had direction, the characters had journeys, and the show had purpose. But somewhere along the line, when the show had reached its natural peak, those in charge of the watering can were reluctant to relinquish it, or to abandon their prize-winning plant. Instead, they continued to pour into it, even when the pot was at full capacity – plots and cliches were overwatered, while characters and stories were starved, drowning the roots of a beloved show in a vain attempt to sustain it artificially.

All things must come to an end – it’s a fact of life that not even popular TV shows are exempt from. There’s no shame in things ending. The only shame would be prolonging existence at the cost of quality of life.

Unfortunately, I’d say the last three seasons of Supernatural have been malnourished. Actually, if I’m being honest, the last season I enjoyed in its entirety was season 8 (an unpopular opinion, I’m sure, but it’s mine). After that, I liked half of season 9, maybe a third of seasons 10 and 11, and, if I’m being honest, I didn’t even finish watching season 12. The most I’ve watched of season 13 so far is the trailer, an act which would have seemed impossible to me this time last year.

I never thought I’d stop enjoying the show. Honestly, after finishing season one, I felt a deep, genuine horror at what I was supposed to do with myself when supernatural ended. As such, the knowledge that there were so many seasons out already to binge watch delighted me. It didn’t matter then what future seasons would be about. I think I just assumed that it would always be the same – the same quality, the same feel, the same excitement – no matter how many seasons were made. But that was then, when I approached this new and exciting show with a childlike ecstasy, and near-obsession. But I’m not a blind devotee. I don’t want to watch something that no longer excites me, that feels like a shadow of its former self – a gimmick. Supernatural feels as if it has outgrown itself. And now, maybe it’s time to talk about an ending.

 

In Style

I’m sure the show runners plan to end Supernatural ‘in style’. But I don’t think I necessarily agree with their interpretation of the phrase. ‘Going out in style’ doesn’t mean ‘going out big’ – not an almighty showdown, with angels and demons and witches and ghouls. And . . . God. There was a time when angels and demons were too big for the boys, when that kind of stuff was out of their league. Fast forward to season 11, and suddenly there’s a fight between God and his sister, a bomb inside Dean, and Mary being brought back to life after ten seasons. No one wanted that, no one asked for that, but that was what delivered in an ‘epic’ season finale.

That’s not the kind of final send off that Supernatural deserves. I’m talking about an ending that does justice to the show’s roots, and heart. And the heart of the show is the Winchesters. The entire show is the journey of two brothers, and despite all the different supernatural forces they face, they are the one constant – and they are human. So it stands to reason that the ending must be human, too. Not fantastical or inflated, not ‘end-of-the-world-big’. But human. Give it body, give it heart, give it life, but don’t try and make it bigger than the boys.

Honour the show by ending it where it started – saving people, hunting things, the family business.

Case in point – All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1. Other than it being the first real death of one of the brothers, what made Sam’s death in season 2 so powerful – and heartbreaking – was its humanity, simplicity, and irony. Irony, that of all the monsters and evil the brothers had faced and defeated, all of the dark magic and powers beyond their control, in the end, Sam was killed by a knife in the back, and died right there in Dean’s arms. It was a very real, very human death. If the show is planning on ending with a final death, then that’s the kind it needs to go for.

 

Curtains

And, if that is the way they’re planning to end it, then I think Sam should be the one to die. Sam’s actually my favourite of the two, so it’s not because I want him to be killed off, or because I’d like Dean to be the last one standing. It’s because of the dynamic of the brothers. Personally, I think that would be the most tragic, and a call back to the first few seasons, where it felt like Sam’s doom was ever-impending. He’s the younger brother, and Dean’s always tried to protect him – that connection is deeply rooted in not just the character, but the show. Whether it was because of the demon blood, the visions, or any number of things, Sam has been in trouble, and Dean has saved him, often at great personal cost. What a call back to the show’s origin it would be to play on this connection one last time. The show now has infinite loop holes and such that allow beloved characters, both good and evil, to return from the dead repeatedly. Consequently, however, the stakes never feel high enough to warrant genuine concern over a character’s mortality, especially Sam or Dean’s.

A new ground rule has to be set up, therefore, in the final episode, or better yet, the beginning of the final season. It needs to be laid early enough in the season to be known, to let the audience be conscious of what it means, but not attribute it to the main characters. Say there is an enemy that needs killing off, and killing off for good. It doesn’t need to be the BIGGEST big bad they’ve ever faced – again, keep it human. But someone dangerous, a threat that cannot be ignored. Through some means or other, the boys convince someone in power to help them, someone good or bad who also wants the big bad gone for good. there is a certain day on which the big bad must be killed on, or by, and he or she promises the boys that all deaths on that day will be absolute – the big bad cannot return. he cannot help the boys kill it, but he can ensure that it stays dead. No angels or demons can revive them. Death told Sam in season 9 that he was capable of such, and I’m sure on a show like Supernatural, there are several other beings that could plausibly promise the same. Preferably someone stoic, absolute, so that it is known that they cannot be bargained with. Their involvement on this occasion was purely because the removal of the big bad would benefit them. On the final day, the big bad is killed but then, so is Sam or Dean.

 

Versions

I’ve thought of two potential ways, or storylines, that could put this into effect for the finale. I’ve provided a loose outline of them below.

Impala Crash

After defeating the Big Bad, the boys begin to drive home. Relieved, they talk in the Impala, driving back in the dark. But then – either a character spurned by the boys in an earlier episode, or a friend of the Big Bad, has tracked them, and seeks revenge. The boys round a corner along a dark road lined by forest, music playing, when the character appears right ahead of them, in the middle of the road. Either Dean swerves, or the character forces their car, and the Impala flips, crashes off of the road, and rolls down into the forest. It crash lands – smoke, broken glass, and silence. Dean wakes first, and tries to wake Sam, who is badly injured, either impaled by something, or stuck. The car then catches fire. Dean forces the driver door open, but Sam’s door is jammed, pushed inward. He can’t get him out. Then, Dean is either pulled backwards by the enemy, or blown backwards by the blast, with Sam still inside. Or maybe Dean gets him out, and holds him as he bleeds out from his wounds. Dean watches as the Impala burns, and Sam dies in his arms.

Or;

Revenge: Gordon-Style

So, someone – either an old character, or a new one who has yet to be introduced – has been following the boy’s journey. Someone with allegiances to the big bad, someone who has been wronged by the boys, or someone a little unhinged or obsessed. For example’s sake, let’s call the character X. The boys believe X to be a being of some kind, but they are in fact human. Maybe X lost a loved one in an apocalypse, or other event throughout the show. For whatever reason, this character blames the boys for what has happened – namely Sam. X has found and read the books by Carver Edlund, and followed the boys undetected for years – maybe flashbacks to earlier seasons could be shown, with X watching in the background. The character believes that none of what has happened would have happened if Sam had died when he was supposed to, and stayed dead. Every event since has been a direct result of his survival. Sam, X believes, is the cause, the root, and the biggest mistake of all. And it’s a mistake that X has taken upon themselves to rectify. The character sets about killing Sam. Maybe first, X tries to trap him in a fire, like baby Sam. But Sam escapes, and the boys aren’t immediately aware that it was X – that is revealed later. X rethinks, and realises that he misunderstood. Although the fire could have killed Sam when he was a baby, it didn’t. The knife in the back, however, did kill him. That was the death that should have stuck. So, X sets a trap, and reconstructs the events of All Hell Breaks Loose part 1, as closely as he can. X breaks Sam’s arm, beats him up. They knows it won’t be exactly the same – tells him as much. No Bobby this time, no haunted town. and it won’t change any of the events that came afterwards. But, X believes, it will prevent any future event or deaths that Sam would cause by staying alive. As predicted, Dean arrives to save Sam. This is part of the character’s plan, the reenactment. But unlike the first time, Dean reaches Sam in time, and manages to shoot X before X can stab Sam. With the danger apparently over, the brothers are relieved as Dean rushes over to Sam. There’s a feeling of elation, of relief – a feeling that this was how it was supposed to have happened the night that Sam died. That Dean would reach him in time, and save him before Jake could ever get to him. Dean puts a hand on his shoulder, says ‘let’s go home’. Dean helps Sam up, and the two begin making their way out of the warehouse. But, as they are leaving, one of X’s henchmen or accomplices, who Dean had knocked unconscious or thought he had killed when he snuck in, appears with a gun. He aims at Dean, who is trying to remember which way he came in, and does not see it. Sam sees, and shouts Dean’s name, before moving in front of the bullet. There’s a moment of shock, surprise, horror. Dean shoots the attacker, and catches Sam as he crumbles to the floor. Just as he did in season 2. He begs him not to die, and holds him as he bleeds. But Sam dies in Dean’s arms, like he did in Season 2, only this time, he can’t bring him back.

 

So, yeah

I appreciate that the above probably reads like angsty fan fiction. And I suppose it is a bit. I’m a fan, and in a world where an individual fan could get an input into how the show ends, this would be mine. I’m not expecting anyone to read it, really. As I said at the start, I just had a lot of thoughts floating around about the show, and I had to put them somewhere. Supernatural will forever be one of my favourite shows, and I hope that when the time comes for it to end, it’s an ending that does justice to the cast, the crew, and the fans.

Carry on, my wayward son.

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Beauty and the Beast, or; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Apparently, on my third or fourth birthday, I refused to be called anything other than Belle, thanks to my deep adoration (obsession) with Beauty and the Beast. It was one of my favourite Disney films as a kid, and has remained one of my favourites as an adult. So, twenty or so years later, I went into the live-action adaptation with high expectations, and slight trepidations . . .

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Belle of the ball?

I have to confess that I had my reservations about Emma Watson playing Belle. I’ve got a lot of love for Emma Watson – she’s a champion of women’s rights, has been doing some incredible things with her fame, and I mean, come on – she was Hermione Granger. That’s reason enough to like her. What made me nervous about the casting was that it seemed so . . . on the nose. It felt like the result of a fan vote, or a Buzzfeed poll. Like she was cast because she looked like her, because she’s as smart and beautiful as Belle is – and because everyone loves her. On paper, I suppose, it makes her a perfect fit. But I wondered if ‘perfect’ would be enough. Emma hasn’t had the most dynamic mix of roles post-Potter, and I worried that casting someone like her for someone like Belle would make the character feel one-dimensional. I wondered exactly what she could bring, or rather add, to the role I so revered.

As it transpired, Emma Watson did a pretty bang-up job. I mean, she was very faithful to the original, with a few new bits and bobs thrown in for good measure, but I suppose there’s only so much that can be changed about classic Disney films, particularly classic Disney princess films. It was a safe casting for a safe portrayal – she played Belle as Belle was in the original, more or less. So kudos to Emma Watson for delivering.

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Do-Re-Mi

Props to the cast – they can all hold a tune. I did wonder at the start of ‘Little Town’ why Emma Watson’s voice jarred a little, but I think it had more to do with the British accent than her vocal range. The ‘Gaston’ song scene was actually one of my favourite parts of the film – not only did it recreate the original scene beautifully, but it was vibrant, visually impressive, and, best of all, fun, almost like watching a stage show as opposed to a film. Maybe I enjoyed this scene so much because I was so wary of being critical of the rest, and it was nice to take a break from picking apart performances, and just enjoy the show. With new elements and insights into the classic story, new songs were inevitable. But in an adaptation that went to such lengths to stay true to the original, the new songs seemed slightly jarring on-screen. That might seem like a bit of a ‘stick-in-the-mud’ comment, though – more likely than not, it was just down to the fact that they weren’t imbued with the same sense of nostalgia, and memories of Disney singalongs. Nonetheless, they were all well written, and it was evident that a lot of effort had gone into making the extra songs match the tone (or tune) of the originals.

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Fairly Odd Parents

Besides changing from an inventor to an artist – and appearing significantly slimmer than his cartoon counterpart – Maurice remains the lovable, doting father, and was well played by Kevin Kline. The backstory of Belle’s mother, however, felt a little strange, and even redundant.  One of the questions that was never answered, or even asked, in the original was the whereabouts of Belle’s mum. This addition, while interesting to a degree, feels a little inconsequential to the plot. If anything, it made me wonder why Maurice couldn’t just tell Belle in the first place. He guarded the secret of her mother’s demise as if he’d killed her – why not just tell her that she died of disease, and save her many years’ worth of questions, and turmoil? And we can’t mention the backstory segment without talking about the book. The magical book given to the Beast by the enchantress that opens the door to the world . . . was I the only one still chewing over this when they left the cinema? It’s visually beautiful and enchanting, but a curious addition that seems to add little to the plot, and ask a whole lot of questions; how long does this teleportation last? How does it work exactly? How do you return? Can people see you when you arrive at your destination, or are you invisible? And that’s just to name a few – there was a whole lot more head scratching where that came from.

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Le Fou’s Moment

I’d heard a lot of praise before seeing the film about Disney’s ‘first LGBT relationship’. I’d heard that the film had been banned in Malaysia because of the scene. I’d heard that Disney were making ‘leaps and bounds’ in portraying all kinds of sexualities and relationships. So I have to confess myself a little disappointed when realizing that the ‘scene’ that had garnered so much praise and attention was quite literally a two-second clip of Le Fou joining hands with another man in a dance. A radical enough gesture for the historical period of the film, I’m sure, but over here, in 2017, I was expecting a little (or a lot) more. Baby steps, I suppose. Beauty and the Beast has taken one of the first, so let’s hope that the ones that follow will be bolder, and more confidently placed. A small shout out can be given to the casting directors – in an age where whitewashing and gender inequality are still such big problems in Hollywood, I was happy to see a lot more women on screen than there were in the original, and a slightly better mix of races (though in a film with two white leads and principal cast, that might not be saying much).

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Bewitched

I felt a little unconvinced when watching the scenes involving the enchantress, and remained so after leaving the cinema. Even now, I’m not sure what the point of her physical presence was on screen. In the opening scene, most certainly – her actions in the beginning are obviously a major plot driver. But beyond that, I’m not sure what purpose she serves by standing silently on screen, and glowing. Then there’s the scene where she heals Maurice, the scene where she’s in the tavern, the scene where she comes into the castle to collect the rose, and brings the beast back to life. Was it necessary? Has she visited other towns in the same vein of inflicting cruel and ironic punishments on those with major character flaws? Is she the Nanny McPhee or Ghost of Christmas Past who frequents any town in which someone must be shown the error of their ways? Perhaps the scenes were added to serve as a cautionary reminder about overlooking magical people that are hiding in plain sight. The townspeople overlooked this quiet girl, the outcast, who the audience knows has tremendous power – not unlike our heroine in her little town full of little people.

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A beautiful, enjoyable, and mostly faithful adaptation of one of Disney’s (or mine) most loved princesses. Despite a few minor gripes I may have had, I smiled the whole way through this live-action retelling of a tale as old as time.

I’d give it four roses out of five.

rose    rose    rose    rose

John Wick: Chapter 2, or; Breakfast At Boogeyman’s

There was once a very angry, very frightening man. He lived alone except for a nameless dog. Until an old friend blew up his house . . .

*SPOILERS*

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Only a year after his first on-screen outing, The Boogeyman is back at it again in John Wick: Chapter 2. Before we get into this, let’s be clear – despite the fact that what follows may seem like evidence to the contrary, I did actually enjoy the film. Though not nearly as much as the first.

Let’s start with the script. The majority of the dialogue sounds like a first draft script that someone forgot to amend. The conversations sound recycled at best, and redundant at worst, thanks to the majority of the backstory having been explained by the character of Ian “Exposition” McShane. As a result, the hollow conversations that made the final cut serve no purpose in the plot, and add nothing to the film, or the characters. To some extent, John Wick may well have had more believability as a mute – a silent, ominous assassin, a symbol of something more than a single man. That’s what made the phone call from the first film – the one in which he didn’t say a word – so effective. The Boogeyman doesn’t need to explain himself, because everyone knows who he is, and what happens if they cross him. If you beat up The Boogeyman, steal his car, and kill his dog, The Boogeyman is coming to get you. Simple, intimidating – and cool. In other words, unless you’re going to give John Wick something smart, funny, or in any way consequential to say, don’t make him say anything at all. Let him do what he does best, and spare us all from the cringeworthy one-liners.

I think that was what made the first film different from, and better than, the second; it didn’t try to overcomplicate things. It was a badass, bloodthirsty revenge flick with very few main players, and a whole lot of dead henchmen. But that formula didn’t have quite the same effect the second time around, with nothing new or interesting to add.

The opening scene was the highlight of the movie for me. I mean, as opening scenes go, it was pretty damn cool. It had a car chase, it had a shoot out, it had hand-to-hand combat. Though one does have to wonder just how John could have continued all but unscathed after using his poor Mustang as a battering ram. When he got knocked over by a car in John Wick, he was knocked unconscious, and woke to find himself tied up in a warehouse.

Apparently, in Chapter 2, he’s impervious to cars as well as bullets.

The plot of John Wick: Chapter 2 is simple enough, if a little contrived. John Wick is called back into the life he tried to leave behind by an influential character from his past, who comes to him with a foolhardy mission that he has no choice but to accept. After protesting that he’s retired, burying his armoury under cement, and having his house blown up, he decides he can’t escape the ‘marker’ he’s been handed, and must continue. Bit of a deus ex machina. Introducing a fundamental plot device that is obvious to the characters, but has never even been mentioned on-screen before, is dangerous territory, especially if you expect the audience to swallow it up after only a brief explanation from old Winston. Granted, the filmmakers most likely only devised the markers after getting the go ahead for a sequel. Also granted that I’m looking way too deeply into a plot device used as an excuse to get John Wick killing again. Even so, it runs the risk of entering the ‘forget-everything-you-think-you-know-about’ cliche, which can prove fatal to a film such as this.

As with the first film, the real MVP of John Wick: Chapter 2 is the fight choreographer, and  the actors/stuntmen for executing the scenes so deftly (and cooly). Awesome choreography makes moments that have the potential to be laughable in this kind of shoot-em-up film enjoyable, rather than silly. One notable exception, however, would be John and Cassian rolling down three sets of stone steps in Italy while fighting, hitting the bottom, and continuing all but unscathed. That was pretty laughable, and titter I did. The pace of the film was a little jarring at times, too. It was either long, well choreographed fight scenes, or stilted, awkward, and inconsequential conversations with forgettable characters.

That being said, I did squeal a little when Morpheus – sorry, the King (?) – came on screen. Will you take the white pigeon, or the brown pigeon? Matrix nostalgia aside, even his character felt pretty redundant. The Boogeyman had no trouble seeking out his enemies alone in the first film. I know there’s a contract out on him by the time he goes to see Morpheus, but he goes to him for help moving underground to avoid all of the people trying to kill him, only to pop out of a tunnel and happily walks straight into a party full of hit men and bodyguards – trying to kill him.

I don’t think you thought this through, John.

Also, although the character calls himself the King, I’m not entirely sure what he rules over. The underground? Messages and SIM cards? Pigeons? A homeless network who have the advantage of moving through the city unseen, despite John Wick recognising one of them instantly as a member of the society, and asking to be taken to their leader? Shhh, it’s a secret.

But I digress. The gun shopping scene in Italy was pretty cool and stylish, and included a nice little cameo from Peter Serafinowicz (Pete! Garthan Saal!). I also liked the literal suit of armour/bulletproof jacket lining, and would love to know if that’s a real thing (though I think not). Shout out to the concierge, too, for putting up with a whole lot of assassin-ness again – and for dog-sitting. I felt pretty indifferent about Ruby Rose’s character, though. Yes, she’s hot. Yes, she’s flavour of the month. But she was on the screen early on until the end; if you want me to believe that she lasted that long in a film where The Boogeyman is killing five guys a second, you better show me kick-ass skills of hers. She shoots a lot, and fights a little, and after a short fight with John in the art gallery, she’s dead. A tip – don’t just hire a badass looking girl to look badass. Give the girl a backstory, a decent scrap, and a reason for being in – and surviving most of – the film. I thought her signing was pretty cool, though, and also served to show what a polyglot Mr Wick is.

It seems that John Wick: Chapter 2 went for style over substance, and even the coolest fight scenes couldn’t compensate entirely for a lacklustre script, and hollow plot. All in all, there were some parts to be enjoyed, some parts that needed work, and some parts that were a little silly.

Did it promise to be a well-thought out, well-grounded thriller? No. Did I go in expecting it to be? No. Did I enjoy it? Yes.

Would I watch it again? Probably not.

But hey, at least the dog survived this one.

…………

(Too soon?)

Rating

Two and a half guns out of five.

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