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SPN meta and reactions to ep 4.03 - Light One Candle

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October 8th, 2008


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10:02 am - SPN meta and reactions to ep 4.03
Needless to say, people, SPOILERS ABOUND for the first 3 episodes, and there is speculation on further storyline direction. So beware!


I went into this season almost entirely unspoiled, except for the obvious: somehow, Dean would get out of Hell.

So when Castiel showed up at the end of the first episode, impossible to summon, impossible to kill, and announced, “I am an angel of the Lord,” I kind of flipped out.

On one hand, I’ve wondered where SPN would end up going if they decided to depict supernatural forces of good. Angels are far from fluffy harmless things; Biblically speaking, they’re inhuman warriors and messengers, sent to convince people to do what God has for them or to smite the forces of the enemy. Encounters like that always begin with the angel saying, “Do not be afraid.” Or, possibly, with the human they’re meeting falling face down in terror.

I love how inhuman Castiel seems. I love the harmless looks, so totally belied by the cadence of speech, by the total lack of fear (even when telling Dean how many of Castiel’s angelic brothers died in battle, there’s only anger, no fear), by the way he seems to have to work so hard to understand human beings at all. He’s something Other. Exactly how I would have done it myself.

On the other hand, I wrote a post a while ago about my glee over Eric Kripke’s take on the show’s “seeming absence of good.”

Kripke said:
"We have a firm belief in the cosmology of this show that evil, in terms of demons, etc, is very tangible and real and out there. Angels and supernatural forces of good are much more elusive. But in my opinion - and the opinion of the writers - if God is out there, he isn't sending angels to fight the battles; he's working through a very human, sweaty, outgunned and overwhelmed group of hunters. For us, these are the angels. I think the point that's very important to us to make is that the forces of good work through humans who are flawed and imperfect and trying to make the right decisions. And that's the way God works. So we try to present that."

That’s something I’ve seen in the show since “Faith” (still one of my favorite episodes). Even in “Houses of the Holy,” where there seemed to be some evidence of supernatural aid on the side of good, it was low-key and hidden. And I love this approach, because even though I as a Christian believe that God did interfere in the world for our salvation, I also believe that we human beings are His hands and feet, His sword and shield in this shattered and fallen world.

That’s the worldview I’ve always seen in Supernatural.

Bringing Castiel in challenges that.

So far, though, they’ve been circumspect about what Castiel is there for, what exactly he is ordered to do, whether he can interfere in any way larger than raising Dean from “perdition” and telling him things about the past.

It’s still good humans, still the Winchesters, who are the truly active force for good.

I hope it stays that way.



I like where the whole angel thing seems headed. I’m still really nervous about what the show could end up saying about God. They tackled this promisingly in ep 2, through Dean trying to come to grips with the idea that God ordered Castiel to pull Dean out of Hell.

1. I don’t want this show to go the route of, say, The Dark Is Rising series. Or Babylon 5, despite the fact that I deeply enjoyed both. (I.e., Light and Dark are both manipulative bastards and humanity must follow its own path.) If we’re going to have demons and angels and God, then I’d like to see this tackle some actual worldviews and theology. Good can be/seem ruthless, yes; but I don’t want to see the Winchesters set equally against both good and evil. I don’t want the humans to be the only people we can root for. I’d like to be able to root for God, too.

2. I don’t want to end up in a truly dualistic worldview. Devil is just as powerful as God, etc. (This doesn’t seem likely, given general demonic reaction to Castiel’s presence, but it’s here for the sake of completion.)

3. I don’t want Sam to go completely evil. I think this is extremely unlikely, but the show isn’t encouraging me with its limited Sam-pov so far this season.



I was spoiled only for the most basic premise of this episode. I’ll write a little bit more on the time travel below, but overall I liked this episode much, MUCH more than I had expected to. And this despite the fact that I am more of a John-girl than I thought.

I adore Mary’s parents. Samuel and Deanna FTW! Especially Deanna, with her snark and her knife skills. Dean is most definitely her grandson.

When Mary comes out and tackles Dean in the alley, I was shocked. Mary, a hunter? My brain kind of froze: it felt like bad fanfic for a minute, and I wasn’t at all sure I would like where this was going. Then I remembered that the YED showed Sam a vision that hinted at Mary recognizing him that night in the nursery, and that Mary had apologized to Sam in “Home,” and suddenly the idea became intriguing rather than annoying.

Everyone has said this, but for an episode with about 5 seconds of Sam, the story was all about him. Nicely played, writers.

I thought the casting for young Mary was brilliant. She looked similar enough that it didn’t mess with my head, and the more I watched the actress, the more impressed I was with her performance. Mary is so much more real to me than she was before, and I adore that she’s so fleshed out now, that she’s not just a victim (though she is still that).

Also love: that it’s not Mary Jess truly resembles--it’s John. *flails* John was Mary’s Jess, her normality, her chance to be safe! That scene made me tear up so hard.

Mitch Pileggi did a fantastic job as the YED. That is one way to bring him back! Favorite moment of episode: Dean staring the YED in the face and telling him, “I’m the one who kills you.” Brings back memories of, say, AHBL 2, where the YED ignored Dean to his peril. <3

“Sammy, you should be here. Mom is a total babe. And I am so going to hell. Again.” *snerk*

John is a Star Trek nerd. A secret one, probably, but that’s totally canon now. *g*

I also love that Castiel came clean with Dean about what’s going on. It’s back to season 2: save Sammy or kill him. I’ve seen people calling what Castiel said “a threat.” I didn’t get that vibe from his delivery. I’d say that he’s just filling Dean in on what has to happen, and the fact that Dean was brought back from Hell so God’s forces wouldn’t have to step in and smite Sam? Is kind of awesome.



Temporal mechanics give me a headache. This is true when it happens in sci-fi shows, where it’s a standard plot device; and it’s even more true in a horror show like SPN, where it’s really not at all part of what one might expect to happen.

There are 3 reasons I can simply let this episode slide without over-thinking it: 1) Dean doesn’t change anything major, apparently, 2) it’s as good a way as any for Castiel to show Dean the truth, 3) Castiel’s comment that Dean couldn’t have changed anything, because “all roads lead to the same destination.”

To be honest? I find myself not really considering this as time-travel at all. My brain has slotted it into the “deeply realistic participatory dream” area; I don’t quite believe that Castiel sent Dean back in time, but that he knocked him out and showed him the past experientially. Kind of like what Yellow Eyes did to Sam in AHBL 1, but because Dean will more readily believe his own experience than a “film reel” explanation, Castiel let him live through it.

That means I really, really want someone to take the episode and write up what happened (since major events did not change with Dean’s presence) without Dean there. *firm nod*



I am deeply displeased at the writing/casting/directing/acting of John Winchester in this episode.

He’s far too clean-cut, happy, quiet, far too white picket fence, Johnny-Apple-Pie for an ex-Marine corporal who just got back from Vietnam. (Also, I have a feeling that the dates on that DO NOT work out, and that’s pissing me off. I haven’t checked, though.)

I don’t mind that all the agency here is Mary’s, in fact I think the story requires that. I don’t mind, either, that Mary loves John in large part because he is “a naive civilian” (even though given John’s own military background I’d challenge her on that as a good description), because even after fighting he still believes in “happily ever after.” I think that’s a decent possibility for John (though it wipes out preseries fic by the dozen), and I think it’s very sweet, and even sweeter that Mary sees that in him.

So I’m not sure my beef is with the writer. The dialogue would be fine if, say, Jeffery Dean Morgan were delivering it. I’m not peeved at the way the actor looks, either, because how could they match JDM? It’s either the acting, either this guy just isn’t good enough to infuse the dialogue with this version of John and still give him that ex-military edge; or it’s the directing.

I see what the show was trying to do here: give us John as he was before he lost Mary, make the difference as striking as possible. I just don’t buy it. It reads as Mary’s vision of John, one clouded by her love and her desire to escape the hunting life. Not John as he really must have been, no matter what Mary says about loving him for who he is.

And that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Also, I suddenly want to write 2nd-person John-pov fic set during a couple of these scenes. I’ve never wanted to write “fix-it” fic before!


To sum up: this is going to some very interesting places. I’m glued to my TV for the rest of the coming season...but mishandled, this direction could lead me to abandon one of my favorite shows for good. Quite a potent choice, Kripke & Co.
Current Mood: curiouscurious

(11 lit candles | Light a candle)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:brianrubin
Date:October 8th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
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All very valid points, but honestly, I have faith in Kripke and crew that they'll treat the whole God and Angels thing with the respect and fear that it kinda deserves, and take us all for an awesome ride in the process. :)
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 8th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
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We'll see. I'm good with the first 2 eps, just not at all sure where they're headed. Given that this show gave us "Faith" and "Houses of the Holy," I'm also inclined to fall on the side of trusting the creators.
[User Picture]
From:brianrubin
Date:October 8th, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
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To be honest, I don't know if ANYONE knows where they're headed besides the show people themselves, and I like it that way. :)
[User Picture]
From:kalquessa
Date:October 8th, 2008 05:35 pm (UTC)
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So basically "yes" to all of this. Though I really like the idea that dean was really there and still couldn't change anything for some reason. Maybe because the whole deterministic theory of time-travel has always appealed to me on many levels, and also because there's more room for angsty short fic if Dean really traveled in time rather than dreaming all of this. Gives a whole different color to that moment in "Home" when Mary's ghost walks up to him and just says "Dean."

Re. your three points about the whole Good/Evil thing and how it could play out: PLEASE TO BE PAYING ATTENTION, KRIPKE!!
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 8th, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
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pssst. Do you read dotfic's meta/reviews? She made a post about John in 4.03 and mentioned how he tries to be the mediator between Samuel and Mary near the end of the ep. Your icon made me think of this. Perhaps Dean did get some of that from his Dad rather than Mary?

I just...I really have a hard time buying the time travel. And I'm still not buying the Impala backstory. *cross with Kripke & Co* I would prefer it to be a sort-of dream.
[User Picture]
From:feliciakw
Date:October 8th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
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mentioned how he tries to be the mediator between Samuel and Mary near the end of the ep. Your icon made me think of this. Perhaps Dean did get some of that from his Dad rather than Mary?

Oh, and, see, I thought he totally got that from Grandma Deanna, who seemed to always be the mediator between Samuel and Mary.

Also, re: the time travel . . . I don't know if it was a "dream" per se, but I'm convinced that Dean's being there didn't. Change. ANYTHING. People who are still around who lived through it (if there is any such person left) remember it the way it originally happened. Only Dean remembers his participation, because he needed to experience it to believe it.

*nods* That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Edited at 2008-10-08 06:26 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:kalquessa
Date:October 8th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and, see, I thought he totally got that from Grandma Deanna, who seemed to always be the mediator between Samuel and Mary.

That's definitely what I got out of those few scenes of the three Campbells, but I can sorta see the John thing, too. Of course, Deanna's more effective than Dean because she's mediating between someone she's married to and someone she gave birth to. poor Dean does not have that kind of weight to throw around when the need arises.
[User Picture]
From:kalquessa
Date:October 8th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC)
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I'm sure I read her meta, but I don't remember anything specific, possibly because it's blended together in my head with all the other meta I read that day. There was SO MUCH meta written for this ep that I think I just stopped absorbing at some point.

Oh, and yeah, my reaction to the Impala backstory is to stick my fingers in my ears and sing "LA LA LA!!" Heh.
[User Picture]
From:persephone_kore
Date:October 8th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
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Maybe because the whole deterministic theory of time-travel has always appealed to me on many levels,

I actually rather like several variations, but deterministic (whatever you do, you already did) is probably the easiest to write solidly. The one in Back to the Future is probably the most confusingly fluid.
[User Picture]
From:feliciakw
Date:October 8th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC)
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and the fact that Dean was brought back from Hell so God’s forces wouldn’t have to step in and smite Sam? Is kind of awesome.

Not so much "kind of awesome" as EXTREMELY AWESOME! In more ways than I can articulate.

The rest of it is pretty much "word." And I still can't wrap my brain around this young!John being an early incarnation of the character JDM created. Even if he was "a naive civilian" (Samuel's words, to be fair, not Mary's), he's not a civilian. Yes, in the hunting community, he's uninformed and uninitiated, but he's a former Marine, for crying out loud! Which we all no came in handy when he did start venturing in to the hunt.

Sorry. Didn't mean to rant all over your LJ. I just wish that that particular part of the ep was better acted and directed . . . you know?
[User Picture]
From:leelust
Date:October 9th, 2008 06:38 am (UTC)
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OK, finally :) 'was good to read.
It's hard to sum up my thoughts about your thoughts in english bit i'll try.
I wrote a post a while ago about my glee over Eric Kripke’s take on the show’s “seeming absence of good.”
I was first to Yay! for this Kripke concept but i learn long time ago that with this show it's delivery not the concept tiself - they often take very mediocre themes and deliver them good enough to say Oh!
Sp i was all for that theme but the way how Kripke presents forces of Good - i'm all for it now! Cos it's still humans they were before. I don't see (yet) how bringing Castiel can ruin that cos he said - he fight other battle - they are accomplices for me and each has battle of his own.

As to your 3 'i don't want to' parts i can say i'm ok with #1 as soon as it'll be shown from human's POV - cos for ordinary people Good can be frighten as well as Evil just cos they can't see throught things to bigger picture. The same with #2 - as far as it shown from human's POV i'm ik with it. As to #3 - i agree cos if they go that way the whole story makes no sense to me then. But again - i trust writers and i don't actually am afraid of it - maybe they let Sam touch some dark side but Sam has Dean and in Dean i trust :)

Time-travel part was brilliant - to mix together two time-travel theories - awesome. But you're ok with it so i won't touch it.


what happened (since major events did not change with Dean’s presence) without Dean there.
I can try to sum up it for you but the thing is that according to the past Dean was there :) *don't break your mind around it*
If we'd pretend that there was no Dean in the past then it'd be: John was planning to propose, was going to buy the car and still'd buy Impala cos he wanted to buy it i the first place - he just looked for some nudge to be sure he was right (in what we saw that nudge was Dean but is it wasn't him there're plenty of other reasons he'd buy it anyway). Mary'd still be a hunter and still'd want to get out with John. Considering big activity of YED in that time and area there are many chances that Samuel'd figured out that something wring and tried to chase YED and all main things would be the same - killing of both Mary's parents and her deal. Was it good enough for you?

Now going to John's part.
I agree with you that it mostly acting(less directing for me) but i'm ok with that cos John wasn't the main figure in this substory and i think the actor was trying to channel 'pre-fire' JDM - as you remember he was also all smily and happy and Johnny-Apple-Pie .
I don't think that all soldiers who were on war would show that to other people - i prefer to think that it was John's choice to live to try and forget all dreadful things he saw in Vietnam - so for him white picket fence world was what he wanted for himself and his future family. Maybe actor should add some military nuances to his delivery but we don't always get what we want.

but mishandled, this direction could lead me to abandon one of my favorite shows for good
You look like thoughtful person who think before judge so i hope it won't happen no matter how they turn the plot. *fingers crossed*

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