“Family Matters” Review
By Bekah James
This week’s episode was chocked full of awesome sauce, with enough new mythology to keep the fandom chattering for months to come. We found out that Sam had no soul, Samuel was taking orders from down low, Christian Campbell was possessed, Purgatory exists and is hot real estate, Crowley is a dick, Alpha Vamp has “big plans” for Sam, and Cas is as big as the Chrysler Building. Shew.
The action started right away with Sam waking up to a physical from Dr. Cas, M.D. After a series of questions and an angel cavity search, the diagnosis is in: Sam has no soul. Oh thank Chuck; here at last is a plausible explanation for Sam’s erratic behavior and Lucifer-like reactions. Despite the horror of Sam being empty inside, I was relieved and feel like I am justified in continuing to love him. In fact, I feel such compassion for Sam now, knowing what he is enduring. How many times does Sam have to suffer? He has been the YED’s play toy, Ruby’s pawn, Lucifer’s Muppet, Samuel’s bartering chip, Alpha Vamp’s ‘perfect animal’… and now Crowley has him on a time card? Oh jeez, the poor baby.
Since the No Soul Reveal, Sam seems more at ease around Dean, what with the necessity of hiding his cold detachment thrown out with the bathwater. I’m interested in finding out more about RoboSam. He doesn’t sleep, but Cas obviously found a heartbeat. He slipped the knots on his restraints with surprising quickness and indicates that nothing can hold him if he doesn’t want to be held. Really? Please, tell me more!
Sam has always been intellectual, always searching for the how-what-when-why in every hunt. Having the start of an answer seems to have relieved him, at least temporarily. Despite his earlier attitude, I think he wants Dean calling the shots again. There must be a little part of Sam left in there who wants his big brother to take care of him. I still don’t trust Sam, but I’m willing to give him a temporary free pass to be a dick while he’s soulless. I am chomping at the bit to learn how he will change—or stay the same—after his soul is returned. Will he retain some of RoboSam’s attributes, or will he be all puppy dog eyes and chick flick moments again?
The Dean of old is back in fantastic form this week. He reminded me of the no pussy-footin’ around Dean of 2014 (“The End”), barking orders and just knowing that they will be followed. Even the Campbells recognize his authority at the end of the episode. Of course, I was very briefly thrown when Dean agreed to cow tow to Samuel in a hunt, but was soon reminded of his penchant for lying to attain his goal (a Winchester trait, to be sure); of course he didn’t sit-stay when Samuel and his merry band of miscreants took off. Following a shared fight with a fleeing vampire, Dean and Gwen share a moment, resulting in Gwen covering for Dean’s secret disobedience. I wonder where that line of writing is taking us, especially following the look Gwen shoots Dean at the end of the episode, when Samuel orders her to get the van. She paused and looked to Dean for something—an offer to leave Samuel and join the brothers? Confirmation that continued loyalty to Samuel is warranted? Only Dean could inspire that particular brand of loyalty and trust in his enemy. Even Sam relents to Dean’s commands, seeming to be relieved to have Dean’s moral compass pointing him down the path of humanity.
The back and forth between Sam and Dean provided endless joy to me this week. Dean is done taking Sam’s crap and calls him on his BS. Sam is done hiding his current nature and let’s his brutal honesty flag fly high. Dean nails it on the head in his assessment that his brother has no instinct about what is right and wrong anymore. Sam has no filter between his thoughts and actions, but he is no longer attempting to keep that from Dean. Evidence of that came in the (hilarious) form of Sam not hesitating to draw and level his gun at his grandfather when Samuel tells the brothers to shoot him or let him pass. You know… that little bit of directing brilliance darn near made the whole episode for me. I was concerned when Dean gives Sam an ultimatum—we all know how the younger Winchester has reacted to those in the past. There was something in the set of Sam’s jaw as he tells Samuel that he and Dean had parted ways that gave me a flare of hope. I cheered out loud when Sam got back into the Impala. The boys are back!
Can I just tell you how much I love this Season’s Castiel? Have I mentioned that before? Cas is more empathetic than ever, treating Sam with a tenderness that belies his emotions for the brothers. His sarcasm is becoming more defined and never fails to make me chuckle. I almost snarfed my drink when Cas tells Dean “of course; your problems always come first.” I was perplexed that Cas didn’t have more to add on the subject of Sam’s missing soul. He has GOT to be tired of saying “I don’t know.” And really, who knew Cas was a size queen. As big as the Chrysler Building, indeed. Misha Collins continues to astound me with his ability to deliver Cas’s awkward lines with barely a facial tick.
It was good to see Crowley back as the King of Hell. I can’t help but love the guy, even though he is Number One Bad Guy this Season, using our boys as pawns in his twisty Hellgames. He’s after Purgatory, which is curious. What does he intend to do with it? What is it that Samuel knows that makes him so valuable to Crowley? If Crowley was the one to “pull back” both Sam and Samuel, that begs the question: Was Grandpa Campbell in Hell? Samuel insinuated that he’d been pulled DOWN (as in, from Heaven) in the “Exile on Main Street” which definitely cannot be true. Crowley surely does not have the mojo to breach Heaven to resurrect souls from THERE. It can’t even be true that Samuel was in Purgatory, since Crowley doesn’t know where it is. That leaves Hell, yeah? Boy, Crowley raised more questions than I know what to do with. He sent demons to possess the Campbells (I knew there was a reason we were supposed to hate them, but wowza was I shocked when Christian’s eyes went black. Also, how did Cas NOT see the demon in Christian in Samuel’s office?) in order to protect his investment. Okay, I get that, but then I was thrown off again when the demons popped out of the room, taking Alpha Vamp with them. Why didn’t they do that as soon as they had the Alpha’s location? I am aware that Crowley always has an end game; I’m just desperate to know what it is this time. Also, I’m truly surprised that there has been no fanart depicting Crowley as Charlie and the Winchesters and Samuel as his Angels. Really, fandom… really? Hop to it! And send/tweet me links.
Rick Worthy as Alpha Vampire gave us a terrifying new breed of vampire. He reminded me eerily of the angel Raphael, calm and collected, even as he delivered one of the episode’s best lines: “Soon I’ll be ankle deep in your blood, sucking the marrow from your bones.” Holy crap. Mr. Worthy’s nonchalant look and off-handed tone gave me chills on top of my chills. He reminds me of a dentist… he looks nice enough, but you just know that he’s got that drill behind his back… or, you know, FANGS. Since neither Samuel nor Crowley seemed too pressed to kill Alpha Vamp, I’m assuming we’ll get to see more of this disarming character. Oh, and was anyone else creeped out by Alpha Vampire’s icky retractable fingernails? Blech.
It was fitting for director Guy Bee to be back at the helm for this episode. Mr. Bee brought family issues screaming to the forefront in Season One’s “Asylum”, and in this episode has once again trotted them back out like a show pony on a victory lap. The choices he made with the characters are amongst the best of the Season so far. I adored Sam’s swagger after he finds out about his missing soul. He seemed lighter and more at ease with himself and his situation. The subtle change in the way he walked and interacted in non-verbal ways with the other characters told us way more than the actual dialogue did. I was amused by the large amount of blood in the episode. I think darn near the entire special effects budget when to fake blood.
Oooh, before I forget, the CGI this week was fantastic. I was captivated by the angel cavity search on Sam. The lights climbing through Sam’s veins were cringe-inducing. Also, Alpha Vampire’s teeth were a step above those created for Dean in “Live Free or Twihard”. Way to go Special Effects gurus!
Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin were back this week to share their brand of writing brilliance with the masses. Best known for their work on the lighter Supernatural episodes (“After School Special” and “Weekend at Bobby’s”), they are also the team that delivered hard-hitting episodes such as “Two Minutes to Midnight” and “Swan Song”. They managed to write a mythology-rich episode brimming with witty rejoinders that allowed viewers a respite from all the angst. Here are my favorites:
“Trust me, he thinks Velcro is big news.” – Sam on Samuel
“Hello, Newman.” – Dean’s hilarious Senfield joke in response to Christian’s greeting
“Recap it for our Wingman.” – Dean to Samuel, referring to Castiel
“My true form is approximately the size of your Chrysler Building.” – Cas defending his size to Samuel
“Quit bragging.” – Dean to Cas after the size comment
“Of course. Your problems always come first.” – Castiel to Dean
“Angel cavity search.” – Dean explaining to Christian WTF was going on in Samuel’s office
“You put jaws in a fish bowl…” – Dean to Samuel regarding caging Alpha Vampire
“Location, location, location… Purgatory is vast, underutilized and hell adjacent.” – Crowley
“Me Charlie, you angels.” – Crowley summarizing the Winchesters’ roles at Hell, Inc.
They also gave us an intense and personal encounter between the brothers (after the vampire hunt/Dean’s ultimatum). It really brought their issues into pin-point focus. I am always pleased to have Mr. Dabb and Mr. Loflin’s names flash across the screen. I hope they will continue to pump out juicy mythology episodes this Season.
This episode pushed every button I have. I laughed, I cried, I railed at the injustice of it all. It’s episodes like “Family Matters” that make me wonder about the sanity of those people who STILL don’t watch Supernatural. I am doing my part to rectify that horrifying situation. I’ve been lending out my Complete Seasons 1 – 5 DVDs to my friends and families so often that I miss them on my shelf. I’m very pleased to report that I have converted six new (and entirely obsessed) fans this month alone. Join the Revolution!
It’s fun to introduce newbies to our world; they bring new insights and enthusiasm that bleeds over into my already preconceived (and sometimes jaded) notions. I urge you all to try it. Go ahead; take Season 1 with you to work tomorrow and chat it up to a co-worker. Or maybe tell your best friend you will dump her unless she agrees to a marathon. She’ll thank you for it once she’s caught up and infected with Winchester glee. Tweet me @RebekahJames with your progress.
Bekah’s Been Drinking Again:
This week I drank whenever I encountered a visceral reaction to anything I saw. Woooo boy. I ended up sipping my drink the entire hour. I really had to chug ELEVEN separate times when I was gut-socked by new information and hard lines of dialogue. How about y’all?
Next week, let’s return to basics. Drink anytime anyone says Alpha in any form.