Episode Review – First Blood

So we’re back after a short hellatus.  How was the episode?

Let’s start with the bad.

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There is a thing in writing, all writers struggle with it, where you’ll get very, very attached to a scene, plot point, character moment, etc almost always involving conflict because conflict creates drama, humor, romance – pretty much everything you need for a story.  So you’ll set up everything for that scene… only to have some asshole editor or beta reader point out that there is a much simpler, easier solution to the conflict, your scene doesn’t work.  Typically the creator then will throw in an excuse for why that solution won’t be applicable, only to then have someone (maybe the same person as before) find a NEW solution that could solve everything.  Eventually – if this gets bad enough – you’ll wind up with a set up for that favorite scene consisting entirely of people standing around explaining to the reader each other why things have to happen the way you want them to.

The problem is, these scenes suck.  Sure they could work, but it takes a writer of incredible skill to make it actually work (see: Tolkien and the Council of Elrond).  99% of the time it will always work better if the creator can get circumstances, character traits, and worldbuilding to organically set up the desired scene.

Back in S7, at the end of the 2nd episode, I was pumped for the 3d.  Sam & Dean, injured and trapped in a hospital with their new enemy, having to escape by their wits?  It seemed ideal for a nail-biting experience.  Oh turns out Bobby just hijacked an ambulance.  What disappointment.  So whatever else, at least after being caught by the government, Sam & Dean took at LEAST half the episode to escape from them.  So the show has learned some lessons, I approve of that.

But the solution…

Making a deal, with a reaper, should be the absolute last, final resort solution. What other solutions were there?  How about… praying to Castiel?  Dean prayed to angels back at the start of S9 so we know they can still hear people even after the fall.  Pray to Cas.  He’s immune to bullets and we know he can knock people out with his vulcan neck pinch angel head tap so he can easily get to the boys without actually killing or harming any humans along the way.  How would Cas know where they were?  Aren’t they covered in sigils against angels?  Well apparently those sigils don’t hide you if you pray out loud to the angels as proved even earlier in the show (more than once).

That’s just 1 solution, in a show that really has provided several for the boys to escape.  Yet instead of showing the audience Castiel or Mary (or Sam & Dean) working on these possible avenues and running into roadblocks, they just… sit around.  Like, I didn’t mind Crowley’s scene, but how much stronger would it had been had Castiel approached him with a deal?  Only to have Crowley reject it?  What if Cas asked Mary to deal with a demon but she refused and tearfully recounted her history?

The fact that they make it an utterly muggle jail kind of makes it all worse.  If there was some sub department of the USA specializing in the supernatural who put them in a room warded up to the rafters, then a reaper escape might be understandable.  If the boys were being jailed by the British Men of Letters, THEN I might believe the need to deal with Billie since we’ve seen BMOL through the season demonstrate preparedness and cunning such that it’s obvious to the audience that the usual solutions wouldn’t work.

Also I’m not thrilled with the “worse than Hell” line.  Dean, you were there for 30 “years,” Sam longer, you’re saying all Hell had to do to break you was put you in a time out for 2 months?  WHY DIDN’T THEY DO THAT?  Is the audience really supposed to believe that Hell, the place of ultimate torture, has never heard of used solitary confinement? (Heck souls don’t need to eat so you can deprive them of even the momentary connection of “lunch time!”)  No, I call bull hockey!

And I wasn’t happy about the BMOL “cleaning” up the installation.  Yeah yeah, I know they’re supposed to be mustache twirling villains but come on – even black op sites are going to be looked at by the government – somebody is going to notice the dead bodies.  Government connections whereby the BMOL get the people involved demoted to some remote station would be a lot more unnerving from a narrative stand point.

This episode made me miss Victor Henriksen even more again as he ended up being such a richer character with understandable motivation while the younger agent this time seemed like an asshole for no reason other than to provide conflict.  I kept expecting for a demon reveal from him.

Oh yeah, and another reaper dies to an angel blade.  No I’m STILL not accepting it!

Other than that, the episode was pretty great.

I like that with the episode titled “First Blood” after the first Rambo movie that they had a large part of the action take place in a woods reminiscent of First Blood down to even a line flip (the “we’re not trapped out here with you…” line).  Sometimes the show’s titles are too “cute” and don’t have the meta layer to them, I like things that work on multiple levels.

I’m thrilled that the show actually remembered canon such as the boys first deaths in both S3 AND S7 (usually S6 & S7 are ignored by the show).

Again I like that the BMOL are actually acting like they want to make friends instead of being dicks just because.  It never makes an enemy intimidating if they are sabotaging their own plans.

Good to see the boys try and avoid killing human lives again.  I enjoyed the cabin action scene even if it was a bit too coincidental.  This season has really stepped up the fisticuffs and I’m loving it.

The boys have to complete their deal with Billie on a bridge.  Heh, nice symbolism that isn’t TOO obvious.

“We’re the guys that save the world.” -While I normally have issues with a show getting too up its own ass (yes I’m looking at you Dr. Who), after 11 and a half years the boys have definitely earned that line.  Now let’s just save the next one after the next 11 and a half years.  (Also, I want it on a tshirt – and yes I know they wrote that line just for that, if I acknowledge it’s pandering it somehow doesn’t count.)

I like Mary’s scene at the end.  It fits and is refreshing to watch a Winchester “sell their soul” in a completely new way. (Hm. That gives me a tshirt idea.)

Sets and settings did look good.

All in all…

On the Kripke scale… it’s about a 2.  On the Carver scale… it’s a 4.  (Still a 3 on the Gamble scale.)

This season still demonstrates overall improvement.  It has more remembrance of canon since this is SUPPOSED to be a living, breathing world.  It puts forth interesting ideas and explores them a little without immediately wasting them.  It lets each episode’s ramifications carry on to the next and Mary is still alive!  This is a season where not everything feels predictable and trite.

The show may get to go out on a high note after all.

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