Meh, it’s ok. 4 out of 5. If you’ve got an even bigger soft spot for sentimentality than me. Subtract 1 or 2 points if you’re not much one for sappy cheese. I’m probably still going to get the soundtrack once it’s in a store that’s not itunes.
Ok I’ll go into a bit more detail.
Let’s be honest, a lot of my fondness for this episode comes from its surroundings. Place this episode somewhere in season 5? Pretty lackluster. Place it after season 9 with its violence against canon and good writing and this episode a breath of fresh air. I mean the writers and crew actually ACKNOWLEDGED the show’s history instead acting like they had either forgotten it or resented it as a weight holding them back.
From a writing/structure standpoint, this episode was an amalgamation of 3 Kripke era outings: Hollywood Babylon, Ghostfacers, and The Real Ghostbusters. Which isn’t bad but… I think the episode would have been stronger had it been about the boys, without actually having them.
SFDebris pointed this out in contrasting 2 TNG episodes, True Q & Lower Decks and explained why one worked and one didn’t. The first failed because the episode was essentially “take over” by the guest star, the main cast had no effect on the proceedings (and it’s quite true, you could put Amanda Rogers’ story in practically ANY trek series and it would work just as well with minimum changes). Meanwhile the 2nd episode worked because it was about other characters reacting to the choices of our main cast. In other words, while the main characters were not on screen as much, the story was nonetheless about them. Likewise, the “spin off”, Bloodlines, failed to fit into SPN for (among many reasons) shoving the heroes out of the way. Other episodes (like Ghostfacers) worked because much of the story was still about Sam & Dean even if they weren’t on screen.
This is why, ultimately, I think the episode would have been better had it been almost exclusively about the play and from the perspective of the participants. You can still do meta with the school cast having to fight like a minor ghost or something and have shades of Its a Terrible Life where they think “what would Sam & Dean do” when trying to beat it. Let the final scene of the episode be the revelation that Dean & Sam were there, watching the play instead of Chuck (even though it’s hard to hate that appearance as Rob just has such a charm about him you can’t ever hate his appearances). They practically did it with actress “Sam” and “Dean” scene in the car replacing the “real” Sam & Dean scene we would have gotten.
And I’m not thrilled that we had to fight another god for this episode. After 200 episodes, no more fitting tribute would have been a ghost-haunted stage. Or maybe something new. (heck, Star Trek: DS9 did a story of a VAMPIRIC MUSE and SPN hasn’t??) Or maybe nothing at all, just the stress of dealing with putting on a production. In other words, I loved that this episode had so many tributes to the past, yet feel torn over whether it should have had less show cliches… or more.
Regardless, the boys made it to 200 episodes, and that ain’t nothing.
Though I still wanted opera.
It’s with some irony that shortly after #200, we get another episode that very much feels like a throwback. Again, after some of the crap from the previous season, it was a welcome relief to see the boys back in action, acting a bit more human, and the guest stars acting more human. I even appreciated that they toned down the humor a lot more and played it with far more subtlety (I admit at first I thought we’d get more tributes to the clue movie… glad they restrained themselves there).
In prior seasons it would have a solid 3 out of 5. In this one… 4.
Although this episode does bring up a thought…
I’ll admit, my brain is probably just stuck on it since I’ve finished up viewings of Arrow S2 and Agents of SHIELD S1, but why haven’t we had the Winchesters face a really psychologically challenging foe? The last one they had was YED but that was all part of a larger plan. From S4 on every season has been about the end of the world with an * on S8 because it was more about improving the world than saving it from an immediate threat and S9… well nobody knows what S9’s arc was about.
The shapeshifter in this episode and Cole earlier in the season made me realize that we haven’t seen someone go for a real brain battle against Sam & Dean, particularly a monster. Sure we’ve had hints about anti-hunter efforts by Lilith in S4 and Eve in S6, but nothing spanning an arc over more than two episodes. The Leviathan at least fought them on a mental level nobody else has but where’s that revenge battle? Cole doesn’t count because he doesn’t know the truth and came at them straight in a fight. The leviathans did a lot of it at first, but what if it wasn’t a world threat? What if some shifter or vampire or someone else (no angel or demon – that might have been creative in S6, by now they’re overplayed) worked just to make Sam & Dean’s lives personally hell? No world threat, nobody else in danger unless it would hurt them just…
Oh wait, we had Crowley do that at the end of S8.
I guess I have my answer. The show’s already done it, just not over an extended time with real depth and challenge (again, closest would be S7). Kind of pity really.
So hey, I kind of liked the shifter this episode. A lot like the time the boys met Adam and the ghouls out for revenge on John but…
Oh. Well no wonder this episode felt so much like a throwback. Well hey, if last season was them trying to do something new, I’m all for them recycling everything this year. Instead of season ten-season win, maybe we should call it, season ten-season again.