Episodes Reviewed – 12.20 & 12.21

Alright, I’ve been away and it looks like the remaining four episodes of the season are posted on the website now.  So let’s catch up in pairs.  As usual I’ll write one episode up before the next.

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12.20 – Twigs & Twine & Tasha Banes

Eh, decent case of the week with a twist.  Witch lore is done moderately well, felt things for Max and Alicia, etc.  There’s two things I could rant about here, since we have another episode to get to, I’m going to talk about writing, structure, and the arc.

Oh this episode was a good, solid:

So as a storyteller, you usually want to induce certain emotions in your audience.  The problem is, the harder you try to force those emotions onto the audience, the more likely they are to rebel against it.  Thus the mocking of stories as “melodramatic” or “cheesy” or any other popular term that ultimately means: “the story is trying to force you to feel.”  It is better for storytellers to entice or lure the audience.  Complicating things further is that each audience member is unique so sometimes what hits that sweet spot for one will be too much for another.

Let’s examine one such emotion: the shock from a revelation.

Now in principle, this is real easy to do, just have something happen in a story for no reason.  For example, imagine if in Citizen Kane the final reveal was that “rosebud” was the secret ritual word to unleash Godzilla onto an unsuspecting city.  But stories that do that are disliked because it’s “cheating” the audience by forcing them to feel shocked instead of leading them to the shock by clever plotting.

From the camera work to the music, it was clear in this episode the closing revelation of Toni was supposed to be a shock to the audience.  But it wasn’t.  Seriously if you’re reading this and you did feel shock at that moment, please let me know because when looking at the story structure of the season, it doesn’t.  There was basically only 3 ways for the story arc to make the revelation of Toni at the end of the episode shocking.

  1. Toni was dead before – Last time we saw her in the season, she was a corpse. Of course bouncing back from that isn’t uncommon in this show so it wouldn’t be a “cheat” here like the Godzilla example I used above. In fact it could even be revealed that the BMoL have an angel on staff and it revived Toni after her death. And talk about a shock! Imagine it was Joshua or that other angel recruiting Castiel this season.  Angels working with the BMoL would have added so much to this season.
  2. Toni didn’t torture before – This is what I complained about at the beginning of the season, namely that it made no sense by character logic or story logic for Toni to begin the season torturing Sam. Had she studiously avoided ever harming Sam, then her revelation here would be more shocking. Yes I know she shot at him in the S11 finale but I pointed out there were justifications she could use for that while still maintaining a friendly and nice facade in trying to seduce him to their side.
  3. Toni was a rogue agent before – This is what I think the show was wanting us to think, but unfortunately it didn’t work because it was all telling us that while showing us something completely different.  Had this been their goal, they should have worked harder to enforce the impression.  For example, instead of Ketch being the one to “clean up after” the Winchesters, reveal in the episodes that it was Toni all along.  You would also have to alter little things to give the audience plausible deny-ability towards the BMoL.  For example, in the episode where Mick had to kill his friend, set that moment up like before, but change the outcome so that Mick doesn’t actually kill anyone and is in fact rewarded for creative thinking.  Or never letting Ketch or Mick torture someone (even monsters) on screen.  Instead set up scenes so that they seem very reluctant and the Winchesters suggest (or volunteer) to do the dirty work.  Have Toni be the one to kill Mick.  Etc.  To avoid making this a cheat, you would want to be sure that Toni and the “proper” BMoL never argued on screen, but that still leaves room for showing the audience what looks like a contrast in actions.  Let a disparity form in our minds before the reveal here the truth, that it was all a grand lie.  It would be tricky and require the showrunner to keep a tight leash on the writers to make sure nobody broke the illusion or gave away the game too early.

But none of that was the case.  We knew Toni was still alive and the only time we were told she was “rogue” was in situations where the characters in question had incentive and reason to lie.  Sorry to those who worked so hard on this episode, but the earlier part of the season undercut your effort.

12.21 – There’s Something About Mary

So I’m giving myself half credit.  I said it would have been interesting had the BMoL been working with the angels, but turns out they’re working with demons (because no ambiguity here).

*sigh* Poor Eileen, I knew she wasn’t going to make it to the end of the season.  Which sucks because when they talked about “ending the American hunter project” I hoped we’d see a kind of rallying the troops montage of the boys grabbing their allies and preparing for a “war” against the BMoL.  Dean could even make some kind of lame tea party joke/pun.  But what did I say?

Wait, she gave Sam a hug, I’m pretty sure that means death is imminent.

I hate being right all the time. 😦  At least we have an excuse for why Castiel isn’t resurrecting her this time – he’s busy off joining a new cult.

Does anyone believe Crowley is actually dead?  We all know he escaped into the rat.  I knew something like that would happen the moment Lucifer didn’t insta-smite him.  Though you can’t say it isn’t out of character for Lucifer to do something like that.  Hopefully in the next couple of episodes they’ll explain the “reversal” that gave Lucifer control.  I figured it was either the baby or maybe a larger plan by Crowley.  Either one is still a stretch by the episode’s end.

Then again there’s still unaccounted for Princes of Hell.  I was hoping that would play out more with them becoming an unpredictable factor and possibly a bigger headache for the BMoL then the American hunters.  But judging by the story structure it seems like they’re not going to be appearing any more for the rest of the season.  (Don’t tell me yet if I’m going to be wrong, let me be surprised.)

Finally, I’m not thrilled with Mary’s brainwashing if only because it raises questions of why has no other foe ever used these techniques?  Especially if they have magic to add to it.  Unless what the BMoL is using is magical, like maybe that drug is a mixture with siren saliva.  Of course Mary wouldn’t be a parent Winchester if she wasn’t turned against her children at the season’s end.

I’m giving the episode…

This is when everything through the season should have paid off, but instead of getting all the different plot threads pulling together into a clever payoff, we end up trimming most of them into an episode that was rather predictable.  For a season that was steadily raising the bar, this is a disappointing slip back into the old ways.

Onto the finales.

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3 thoughts on “Episodes Reviewed – 12.20 & 12.21

    • Oh for me personally it was a headache but objectively it was competently written and didn’t violate canon outright. Bloodlines contradicted itself in its own episode which is a hilarious fail.

      And really, after the mishaps trying to set up the BMoL through the season, this episode was the logical and inevitable result. If you want to improve 12.21, you have to go all the way back to 12.01 and start from there. The storyline as a whole is definitely 1 shell.

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