This week, I’m once again abandoning my weekly recap formula. Sorry, I’m not sorry, but I have some things to say about this week’s episode, and it’s just not going to fit into the layout that I do every week.
So, to begin with, let’s talk about what I like in S09 E08: “Rock and a Hard Place.”
What I Liked About “Rock and a Hard Place”
- Sheriff Mills returned, and she kicked some ass.
- Jared Padalecki is killing it this season. His portrayal of Sam is my new reason to watch the show every week.
- Sam’s hair is glorious. (No, seriously, I saw it in person at BurCon last weekend…it really is the stuff of legend.)
- Dean’s monologue (you know which one I mean)
- The end scene with Sam & Dean…man, that kicked me in the feels. It was honest, and raw, and we see the guilt in every line of Dean’s face. It was brutal and angsty and if it’s a glimpse of what’s to come…ouch. But really, boys, well done. Actually, that was pretty much par for the episode: the only scenes worth watching were the ones between the Winchesters. Scratch that, that’s how I feel about this entire season. I feel like the writing team has forgotten what the show is really about. Let me make it simple for you: it’s about the Winchesters kicking ass and taking names. Forget the other characters for a minute and focus on the important shit. Yes, I love Castiel and Crowley and Kevin and Charlie, but why do I watch the show? For Sam and Dean. Every scene with just J2 in it is spectacular; even if the writers have forgotten what the show is about, the two lead actors sure haven’t. They’ve been at this so long that becoming the Winchesters is like tying their shoes in the morning–it’s habitual and it shows. Sorry, writer of last night’s episode whose name I refuse to commit to memory–if you want to f**k up the character development, you’re going to have to murder the actors. (But really, nice try at sending Dean back to the character development from season 1).
Since it appears that I’ve already begun my ranting, let’s move on to what I didn’t like about this week’s episode.
HatedLoathedDespised Didn’t Like About This Week’s Episode
- The Writing
No, really, the writing was shit. I am being generous with that adjective. As a writer, I’ve become very picky about what I watch. I crave shows with strong characterization, gripping plots, and spot-on continuity. As a writer, that’s what I expect. I expect it in my own writing, and I expect it in the writing of, oh I don’t know, people who are paid to do it. “Rock and a Hard Place” was lacking these core elements of writing. The plot was a mess; not only did I not care about the villain, but I didn’t quite understand her motivation for attacking people in a small town. Supposedly, she was the Roman goddess of the Hearth, Vesta. Now, the mythology presented in Sam’s research was common knowledge (dropping by Wikipedia will tell you that), but how the hunters were supposed to depose of the goddess was problematic. A piece of oak dipped in…virgin’s blood? If the goddess eats the liver of virgins, how exactly the blood of a virgin supposed to harm her? It was a far-from-convincing plot, and as much as I love the MotW episodes, I was very disappointed. Where was the scenes of the brothers working the case? Where was the snark? The brotherly camaraderie we know and love? Where was Supernatural?
- The Portrayal of Women
SPN has been criticized for its portrayal of women more times than I can count. No female character seems to stick around for more than a couple of episodes, and the Winchesters are notorious for poor track records in the love department. Now, I’ve never been too upset with the women in the show before. The family business doesn’t provide many opportunities for deep, meaningful relationships. It’s why the brothers are as co-dependent as they are, and I accept that. What I do not accept is that this week we finally had an episode written by a woman and instead of using her opportunity to write poignant nuances and glimpses into the Winchester’s views of women, the episode poked fun at some of the rather heart-wrenching things the Winchesters have experienced over the years. And it wasn’t light-hearted or satirical humor–it was crass and it was offensive.
For instance, when Sam and Dean are at their first “chastity meeting,” Sam begins to discuss his reasoning for joining the group. He says that none of his relationships end well–and we know he’s not lying. Sam is baring his soul–and we know how much the Winchesters don’t like to do that–and the scene is glossed over and treated as a shtick to get them in with the group.
But, poor Sammy aside, my real problem with this episode was Susie. Some people dreaded this episode because Dean was going to have sex. You know what? The guy goes through some serious shit. Let him have a little hanky-panky. Great. Fine. My problem is that instead of giving Dean a meaningful and emotional connection with a woman, the writer handed him a sexual object–a former porn star, that Dean has desired–and said, “Hey, here’s a hole for ya.” Who is Susie? The character was grossly underdeveloped, but from what I did see, it seemed that she regretted her former life. She left it behind, changed her name, and started over as a born-again virgin. She was obviously uncomfortable with her identity as a sexual object, but according to last night’s writer, once a sexual object, always a sexual object, so it’s entirely believable that she’ll jump into bed with Dean after 30 seconds of bad Spanish and taco references.
I’m so disgusted by what this says about the woman AND what it says about Dean Winchester’s moral integrity, which brings me to…
- The (Horrible) Characterization
I watch this show because I love the Winchesters. After nine years, I still learn new things about the characters because the writers had done a good job of allowing them to grow and mature. And then there was last night’s episode, which was the equivalent of Edward Norton in American History X dragging Dean’s character development over the past 8 seasons outside and curb-stomping it. Like I said before, I do not have a problem with Dean having sex, but I DO have a problem with Dean preying on vulnerable women who are uncomfortable with their sexuality. The writer had an opportunity to let Dean confront some of the dark things he keeps locked away inside–when he talks about his past of one-night stands, he says, ““Sex has always felt good. Really, really good. But, uh, sometimes it just makes you feel bad…” and then launches into the raunchy monologue (which was hot, I admit). Now, Dean deflecting is a very Dean thing to do, BUT there is usual an undercurrent of truth to Dean’s deflecting. The writer instead went into crass humor, and she did it again when Dean went to Susie’s apartment. The Dean in Susie’s apartment was not the Dean we’ve seen grow up and mature over the past 8 years. Did the writer fall through the time vortex and think she was writing for season 1 or 2?I expect Dean to throw out some cheesy flirting, some dirty jokes, and some inappropriate innuendos. That is Dean. But, Dean is also a very empathetic person. He cares about people. Why else would he be in the family business? The Dean last night was a creepy predator, who ignored the social cues of an uncomfortable woman, and in 30 seconds convinced Susie to compromise her morals and reenter her sexually-objectified persona. This is not Dean. The Dean we know is charming and a little skeezy, but he’s not the misogynistic asshole last night’s episode painted him out to be.
Perhaps our Overlord Misha Collins sums up the problems with the show better than I can:
I’m frankly surprised by the show. Sorry, people who write the show and everybody who works on it and everything, but there’s stupid things on the show that they shouldn’t do.
Like, why do they have to say “bitch” and kill all the women? You know? Because there are certain small ways in which the show is sort of gratuitously misogynistic when it doesn’t need to be.
When I read the scripts, I cringe sometimes. Yeah, there’s a million other things you could say, you don’t need to do this. Or, um, you have killed every other female character who had more than a two-episode arc. Do you have to take this one?
Charlie’s still around, although she’s not a threat to the boys as a romantic interest because she’s gay.
So, Creators of Supernatural, I’m assuming that after last night’s episode you’ll be looking for a new writer. Where can I submit my resume? It’s time for a female writer who can keep the show’s focus (it’s about the Winchesters, yo) and bring the womanly perspective that the show so desperately needs. Or you know what? Let Felicia Day (Charlie Bradbury) do an episode. I’ve met her and I can tell you that she’s fucking fantastic.
Let’s hope that next week’s episode comes with a healthy dose of redemption.
P.S. I think that Dean was simultaneously talking to the fandom in this quote: “If there’s something wrong, it’s not your fault. We’ll deal with it. But you gotta have a little faith, Sammy.”
Disclaimer: I own none of the images or the gif set. If it’s your edit, I’m happy to give credit.