Supernatural, Ep. 7.09, “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters”: Obvious cliffhanger undermines otherwise fun episode
This week, on Supernatural: Sam, Dean, and Bobby go hunting and Dean loves his Turducken Slammer.
For the second time this season, a strong Supernatural episode is marred by a misjudged cliffhanger. As in “Slash Fiction”, this week’s episode progresses nicely, balancing character moments, humor, and the trademark Supernatural gore, until the very end, when Ben Edlund and the series’ PTB ask the viewers to invest in the notion that Bobby’s been shot in the head and is in grave peril. Trouble is, the experienced viewer saw it coming and knows that Jim Beaver isn’t going anywhere, at least in the long term, so any tension is taken out of a moment played as deadly serious.
The trouble starts when Bobby is left alone with head Leviathan Dick’s plans. He scoops ‘em up, pages through, and as soon as he figures out the Big Bad’s plan, we know something’s going to happen to him to stop Sam and Dean from finding out until nearer the end of the season. However we also know, with Cas (Mischa Collins) out of the picture, nothing permanent is going to happen to Bobby, because Supernatural just doesn’t work for more than a few episodes without a third character balancing out the Sam and Dean dynamic. At this point, Bobby’s the only one left alive to fill this role. Season one is fun and interesting, but the series only hit its stride after introducing Jim Beaver and bringing him on board as a recurring character in season two. In season one, this role was filled by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose presence elevates his few episodes above most of the rest of that year’s, but it’s adding first Bobby, then Cas, that solidified and strengthened the series. With Cas gone (for now), the series can’t afford to permanently lose Bobby, and both the writers and audience know this, so pretending otherwise, as happens at the end of the episode, just leads to annoyance.
That frustration aside, this is an expectedly fun episode. Ben Edlund, creator of the Tick and genre TV favorite (he wrote Firefly’s hilarious “Jaynestown”), delivers a lot of fun moments and moves the overall arc on nicely. The series has done zombies before, in season 5’s excellent “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, but this is another fun twist on the idea. More accurately, for this Browncoat at least, this is Supernatural does Reavers/the Pax. Wisely, very little time is spent on the zombie/Reaver story and the meat of the episode is split into two areas- character moments/the guys hunting and the Leviathans. The season-long (assumedly) arc of Dean’s disillusionment continues, with a blissed-on-Turducken Dean revealing more than regular Dean would about just how depressed and generally messed up he is. Bobby’s later scene with him is strongly reminiscent of a season 5 Buffy moment (“Fool for Love”), when vampire Spike tells Slayer Buffy that it isn’t a particular baddie that kills Slayers- it’s their eventual ennui and depression that makes them that half second slower and gives a monster his lucky day. It’s a nice scene, though Guy Bee’s choice to go with tight closeups for most of it ends up being more distracting than anything else.
We also get a fun scene between Sam and Bobby showing just how co-dependent the brothers are and reminding the audience that Lucifer is still playing around in Sam’s head- one assumes that will eventually come in to play. There are some other nice touches as well, from Jensen Ackles’ entertaining performance as he practically makes love to his Turducken Slammer, to his aluminum take out swan. Dean’s always been a physical creature, reveling in the simple pleasures of food, drink, and sex, and this moment is no exception. It takes on a darker note later, however, when we realize that the brief moments when Dean is enjoying in this case his sandwich, in other weeks a burger, are when he is most content, when he blocks out the rest of his crazy, depressing life and focuses on the simple act of eating a tasty meal. Plus, the premise of the episode allows dialogue like, “I think you pissed off my sandwich”.
The episode is also well structured, starting as a freak of the week and only later tying in to the overall Leviathan storyline. When Bobby says, “What the hell is going on?” about halfway through the episode, he mirrors the audience’s confusion and that question mark, not knowing where the episode is about to go, makes for a much more interesting and satisfying third act. It’s nice to see Benito Martinez back this week, and with a few of the other Leviathans out of the picture, hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him in the future. There are also a lot of other fun shoutouts to prior episodes that add enjoyment for long-term fans. Supernatural has done a great job of world-building over the years; simple things like bringing back Big Gerson’s Diner for at least its second prominent appearance (the guys “met” Bella at a different franchise location) make for a more fun and complete world. Also, the simple fact that they’ve chosen to name the ‘80s corporate tool of a Big Bad Dick is delightfully puerile and will hopefully be joke fodder for many weeks to come. Supernatural has been, overall, strong this season. Here’s hoping this week’s cliffhanger is just as quickly and painlessly resolved as “Slash Fiction”s.
What did you think of the episode? Any predictions about Bobby or the Leviathans’ plan? Post your thoughts in the comments below!
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