SUPERNATURAL 7.14: “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie”

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear from the outset: I am not afraid of clowns (coulrophobic). I don’t like clowns, but I am not afraid of them. I think they’re creepy and I don’t understand why some people find them funny, but I am not afraid of them.

However, Sam Winchester of The CW’s SUPERNATURAL is afraid of clowns. Big time. Forget being locked in a cage with Lucifer in the pits of Hell; at least it wasn’t a clown! Well, it was only a matter of time until Sam finally had to face that primal fear and fight a couple of clowns. With pipe wrenches. Who hasn’t had that nightmare, right?
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NIKITA 2.12 and SUPERNATURAL 7.12

The CW served up a couple of new episodes of NIKITA and SUPERNATURAL tonight, and watching them reminded me of what I’ve been missing: action drama and a big dose of fun. NIKITA showed more originality with its story, but nothing beats the chemistry of the Winchester boys – even when they’re separated by 68 years.

The big development on NIKITA is that Oversight was about to kill everyone in Division with a secret failsafe protocol using VX gas to murder everyone. But Nikita (Maggie Q), Michael (Shane West) and Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) managed to turn Sean (Dillon Casey), who told them about the gas. But before they do anything about it, Percy (Xander Berkley) put a plan of his own into motion to have the Guardians take out Oversight – just as Amanda (Melinda Clarke) was about to drug Percy into a permanent coma.

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Supernatural 5.1: Oh, hell yeah!

Hell of a way to kick off the fifth season of SUPERNATURAL – coming out guns blazing, letting us have it with both barrels. I was sold right from the opening recap featuring highlights from last season set to AC/DC’s driving “Thunderstruck.” Pretty audacious, Eric Kripke, to remind people how high you set the bar with the exciting fourth season.

The new year picked up right where the finale left off, with Lucifer emerging from hell. But viewers were knocked off their feet right along with the Winchester brothers when they were instantly teleported to an airliner to witness the Adversary’s escape from the air. Let’s talk about Lucifer for a moment. Clearly, he is the Big Bad for this season (Could there be a bigger bad? Pipe down, you Elder Gods in the back; as indifferent cosmic beings, you don’t count as “bad.”), but as the episode title indicates, creator Kripke may be demonstrating “Sympathy for the Devil” this season. Kripke clearly has not forgotten that Lucifer is not a demon – he was the very first angel. As Lucifer’s spirit looked for a body to inhabit, he chose a scarred man named Nick who lost his family to a madman’s bloody rampage. And Lucifer, of course, considers himself a victim of god’s tyranny. So we will see two damaged psyches inhabiting that body, one of whom is the most powerful angel ever. Lucifer is even more terrible in aspect than the archangels!

And how about those archangels killing Castiel? No sooner had Misha Collins’ name been flashed on the screen as a third-billed series regular than Chuck revealed that Castiel had been capped by his fellow angels. Well, no way Cas was destroyed, right? Well, he wasn’t. Castiel made a terrific heroic entrance, just when Dean needed him most. Cas now seems to be some kind of independent operator, but whatever his deal, he certainly was not on the side of the angels. This little mystery should keep the audience on tenterhooks. But like last season, when we had to wait weeks to learn how Dean had escaped hell, and longer still to discover what had happened to him there, I’m betting it will be a long time before we understand Castiel’s new status quo. I have my own theory, and if I turn out to be correct, it’s gonna be a mega-cool reveal!

Bobby going all black-eyes and taking out Dean was a shock — as was Bobby surviving stabbing himself with Ruby’s blade — but perhaps Kripke’s bravest move was going so meta with the fangirl who writes Wincest. Forget the hordes of hell and the heavenly host, Kripke could be really tempting fate by baiting the fanfic community! But she did help the brothers, so it was ultimately a positive portrayal.

And, like I said, one helluva season premiere.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 5/15/09

SUPERNATURAL’s season finales always deliver — from the shocking wreck of the Impala at the end of season one (Okay, yeah, the Winchesters were inside…) to Dean being dragged to hell last season — and this week was no different. You could say it was one hell of a finale. Sam messed up big time, and now the ultimate Big Bad, Lucifer himself, has been set free to loose the Apocalypse on Earth. One good thing, tho. If this doesn’t teach Sammy to listen to his big brother, nothing will! I really liked how it was shown that everything since the very first episode was leading up to this point. This is what Azazel, the Yellow-eyed Demon, was building toward… making Sam the instrument of Armageddon. Sam became so powerful that he could torture demons; and so cold-hearted he could drink the blood out of a demon’s human host to build up his powers.

While Sam was executing the demons’ game plan to perfection, Dean got a front-row seat for the angels’ counterplan, which was to…let it all happen. Huh? Zachariah told Dean that the heavenly host sees the Apocalypse as just another fight, “and we like our chances.” The angels think that licking Lucifer in a fair fight will pave the way for paradise on Earth. And the human race? Collateral damage. Eggs and omelets, and all that… Oh, and “God has left the building,” so it’s up to Zach and Castiel and…Dean. The angels hit on the bright idea of using Dean as their Holy Warrior instead of anything so prosaic as an archangel. Yes, the same Dean who was, 10 minutes earlier, encouraging Cass to rebel against the plan. The same Dean who unwittingly set the entire Armageddon process in motion. (There was a nice symmetry to Dean starting the process and Sam completing it, doncha think?) Next season will be all about the battle with Lucifer. And since next year is the last for stars Jensen Ackles (Dean) and Jared Padalecki (Sam) as well as creator Eric Kripke, anything can happen to the Winchester boys.

The season finale of BEING ERICA delved into the enigmatic Dr. Tom just a bit. He didn’t haul out a single quotation, which made him much more palatable to me. Erica wanted to tackle her biggest regret: not being able to stop her brother from dying in a fire. It was a classic (or, if you prefer, cliché) time-travel trope: Can you save a life? Should you? Are some people meant to die? Of course Erica broke her non-interference pledge and stopped saved her sibling’s life. This angered and frustrated Dr. Tom. Yes, he displayed elements of an actual personality. Sure, the universe corrected itself by killing Leo farther up the timestream, but the damage was done. Erica learned to accept the inevitable, and Dr. Tom was replaced by Nadia, a new therapist. She is a seemingly cold-hearted bitch in a starkly antiseptic office that was the antithesis of Dr. Tom’s cluttered warmth. Will there be a second season?

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 5/8/09

As of this week, John Locke is large and in charge on LOST. He strutted through the Others’ village like a conquering hero — or the returning king that he is. When Richard Alpert noticed the change in Locke’s demeanor, John said, simply, “I have a purpose now.” Well, he certainly has direction at least. He solidified his control over the people by insisting on confronting Jacob rather than accepting his orders, sight unseen. Hmmm, what happened to the “man of faith” who was so willing to accept the word of others? Seems like John has grown up. Now he wants a reason to follow Jacob. And he’s going to give his people a reason to follow him instead of the disembodied Jacob. Locke slapped down Ben by noting, “The Island told me. Doesn’t it tell you things?” That was in connection with Locke’s impeccable timing in sending Richard to meet John’s time-traveling self.We saw those events from John’s perspective in the season premiere. Now we know how Richard knew to treat a gunshot wound, and why he gave Locke the compass. The episode ended with John leading the Others on a mission not just to find Jacob, but to kill him. “I’m starting to think John Locke is gonna be trouble,” Richard Alpert said. “Why do you think I tried to kill him?” Ben replied. Jack, meanwhile, as apparently taken up Locke’s mantel of faith. He decided that detonating the bomb is the reason most of the Oceanic 6 were sent to 1977. In other words, it’s their destiny. He has no reason to believe Faraday’s wild theories, other than Daniel’s death — which proves the past can be altered. (Or can it? It appears that Faraday always died in 1977 — even if he existed in the future — so nothing was actually changed.) So Jack is taking just the sort of leap of faith that Locke was known for. Jack was determined to change the past in the hopes of undoing all the tragedy that happened since Flight 815 crashed. But, “It wasn’t all misery,” Kate suggested, “Enough of it was,” Jack replied.

Sawyer and Juliet were enduring misery back at the DHARMA Initiative, where Radzinsky insisted on torturing LaFleur (Sawyer) to find out where Kate went. Radzinsky went so far as to declare himself the new leader of DHARMA. We know the fate that awaits Radzinsky: creating the blast door map and editing the orientation film before blowing his own brains out. This is clearly the beginning of his madness. Of course, it’s not like his buddies are any better. You can bet Sawyer will have a word with Phil about hitting Juliet. Because Dr. Chang believed Faraday’s journal — and because Hurley cannot lie effectively ( “Dude, we’re from the future.”) — he ordered the island evacuated. Sawyer bartered a trip aboard the submarine, Galaga, for himself and Juliet. Sawyer resolved to use his knowledge of the future to get rich by doing things like buying Microsoft stock and betting the Cowboys in the 1978 Super Bowl. How about that “Good riddance” sneer before boarding Galaga? Next week is the two-hour season finale, which will set the stage for the final season of the series. We have to figure we will see the Incident — unless Jack stops it. But maybe detonating Jughead causes the Incident by making the impending release of electromagnetic energy even worse?

I liked that SUPERNATURAL was super-talky this week; I could even have done without the fraternal fistfight at the end, but I guess the-powers-that-be felt like they needed to add some action. I was totally entertained by Castiel acting in mysterious ways, Anna getting dragged back to heaven, Alistair being all sadistic, and Sam’s mom dropping by. Not to mention how Jared Padalecki got to stretch some acting muscles and emote. I really bought the sibling rivalry between the boys. Will Lucifer himself cameo in next week’s season finale?

Y’know, when words are bleeped on SOUTH PARK, it’s frakkin’ hilarious. When words are bleeped on SOUTHLAND, it’s just … well, desperate. Like, the-powers-that-be are putting on airs: “Oh, we’re an edgy cop show with gritty, realistic dialogue, but The Man, over in Standards & Practices, he won’t let us express ourselves.” In reality, SOUTHLAND is more like the second coming of ADAM-12 than THE SHIELD.

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/24/09

I have to hand it to SUPERNATURAL for being such a crafty show. (Is it witchcraft?) Producers used the pathetic cliché of the surprise son to deepen Sam and Dean’s understanding of their late father, John. In an episode cleverly titled “Jump the Shark,” the boys learn that their father had a child in Minnesota that he never told them about. The justification for the sudden reveal was that John wanted to shield young Adam from his dangerous life as a Hunter. While Dean took an instant dislike to the newcomer (because John always remembered Adam’s birthdays and took him to baseball games), Sam immediately took Adam under his wing, explaining the occult world of the Hunters and teaching his new little bro’ how to handle firearms. Sam also parroted the harsh lessons that he himself resented hearing from John just a few years earlier: A hunter can never allow himself to have personal relationships, because they make Hunters weak, and endanger others. Witnessing Sam’s lecture, Dean suddenly realized how like John Sam has become. Dean, the older brother, had to admit that no matter how much he idolized John — dressing like him, copying his habits — Sammy was truly behaving like their father. That was a tough thing for the tightly wound Dean to admit — and for Sam to acknowledge. Sam spent most the first season rebelling from John’s tutelage, but there he was, passing along the same lessons. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki handled the scenes well. The actors are particularly good at expressing the sibling rivalry without ever making it look like the boys truly hate each other. The sense of family always comes through. And hey, it’s always great to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John again — even if it’s only in brief flashbacks. It’s ironic that Morgan has a deceased character on both SUPERNATURAL and GREY’S ANATOMY, yet it’s Denny who comes back from the grave for a major storyline! Gag of the night: The boys visited a diner called “Cousin Oliver’s,” clearly named after the archetypical jump-the-shark character from THE BRADY BUNCH!

BEING ERICA is all about dredging up the past, dealing as it does with time-traveler Erica Strange. I’m sometimes confused about what Erica is trying to accomplish on any particular journey into her past, and last night was one of those times. She wanted to go back to another social-disaster incident, which meant more 1980s music and dancing. (I’m beginning to think Erica’s real past mistake was being such a social butterfly; most of her problems stem from parties!) It also seems that Erica isn’t grasping the idea that she cannot change her past. Oh, sure, she can rearrange some of the details, but that just makes events go off the rails in a slightly different direction. Then she returns to the present and realizes that she has to look at her past failures in a different light. Presumably, that makes her think her forays into the past are successful. The mission I’d like to see her undertake is going back to the day that Dr. Tom decided to speak almost exclusively in quotations — and brain him! Here’s one of my own:

“I never have found the perfect quote. At best, I have been able to find a string of quotations which merely circle the ineffable idea I seek to express.”
— Caldwell O’Keefe

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 3/20/09

This week’s installment of SUPERNATURAL was a game-changer in the war between the angels and the demons. And that’s not just hyperbole — the plot really was changed by the shocking revelation that the demon hordes were not responsible for the murders of a half-dozen angels. It was one of their own! Heaven drafted Dean Winchester (DAYS’s Jensen Ackles) because they needed him to go where angels fear to tread — both literally and figuratively. For example, he and brother Sam (GILMORE GIRLS’s Jared Padalecki) were able to enter a building that barred angels with magic, and this week Dean was asked to torture the captive Alistair. Castiel wanted Dean to extract the secret of the angel murders. Resorting to torture was bad enough, but the act required Dean to call upon skills for inflicting pain that he honed in Hell. And that meant confronting the shame of what he did. Dean agreed to become a tormenter in order to curtail his own suffering. When fallen angel Anna questioned how God could possibly want Dean to torture a captive, Castiel insisted, “He’s doing God’s work.” But the way Misha Collins played the line, Castiel did not believe it. Can torture ever be a good thing? (Hey, that’s the same question 24 has been asking all season.)

Even as Dean was accessing horrible parts of his past, Sam was giving in to his thirst for demon blood. The devil juice has been supercharging Sam, but can those tainted powers really be used for good? That’s pretty much the same question Dean was wrestling with. But regardless of whether he can control it, Sam’s power is awesome: Where Dean’s torture fell short, Sam’s psi powers forced Alistair to confess that the demons were not murdering angels ; they were just taking advantage of the situation. Then Sam actually killed Alistair — a shocking move that put the fear of God (so to speak) into Cass! And that set Castiel to thinking… and then figuring out that his partner, Uriel, had betrayed him. “The only thing that can kill an angel is another angel,” Uriel growled, revealing that he was jealous of God’s love for humanity. So Uriel put in motion a plan to bring about the Apocalypse, which would raise Lucifer and burn the Earth to a cinder. And Castiel was worried about having doubts about God’s plan before! Dean was similarly devastated to learn his true role in the angels’ game: He set the Apocalypse in motion when he gave in to his dark side in Hell. Dean was consumed with guilt that his weakness was going to bring about the end of the world. But — in exactly the kind of irony that always happens with mystical prophecies — the man who started the Apocalypse is the only one who can stop it. Castiel realized he needed Dean, and noted, “It’s not blame that falls on you, Dean. It’s fate. You have to stop it.”

I have given SUPERNATURAL major kudos before for tackling questions of Good and Evil, and…wow, the show is not flinching at really delving deeply into the subject. I am astonished that they are so directly addressing the topic of God’s policy of non-interference in the affairs of Earth. Is God still interested in us little people? The God on the show appears to allow dissent in the ranks of the heavenly host, and even let Uriel commit murder! Which is another brave move: depicting an angel — one cited in the Hebrew Bible and painted by Leonardo da Vinci, no less — as defying his Father. Yes, Uriel is often used in literature (See John Milton’s Paradise Lost for one example.), but it’s definitely a bold move for TV. And what about the heroic angels — Castiel is depicted as doubting God and seriously mulling disobedience. And Cass was rescued from Uriel’s wrath by Anna — a fallen angel! SUPERNATURAL has not been so daring as to portray God himself. Yet. Maybe they’re just holding something back for the season finale. Talk about a “special guest star”!