“Live Free or Twihard” Review
By Bekah James
It’s odd. There are simultaneously NO words and an INFINITE number of words to express my feelings about “Live Free or Twihard.” For the first time in the show’s history, I had to pause mid-episode to gape openmouthed at the screen. I might have thrown a pen at the screen and made some wordless cry reminiscent of Braveheart.
Dean was turned into a vampire. It’s surreal to even type that sentence. After everything the Winchester brothers have been through, you’d think I wouldn’t be surprised anymore. But THAT? That made me go ‘holy mother of pearl!’ It was pretty clear that he would not remain a vampire, but I didn’t expect Samuel Campbell to have a cure up his sleeve. I figured they would find the Alpha Vampire (why hello recurring plot point of S6) and ice him. I was actually ANGRY with Samuel for having a cure, which sounds absurd, but I’ve spent the entire Season working up a healthy distaste for all things Campbell. I am still convinced he is a Not So Good Guy, but here go the writers throwing us a curve ball. Instead of “collecting” Dean for his traveling supernatural circus (or whatever he’s got going on), he offered his grandson a freaking cure and questioned Sam’s honesty and intentions. Why haven’t we heard about this cure before? Oh, that’s right… Samuel had his grandfather’s hunting journal at his disposal. What? When he was resurrected, did the journal get resurrected with him? I don’t know, that felt a little deus ex machina to me. How about you?
I could not believe that Dean went home to say goodbye to Lisa. It was very sweet, the fact that his bond with Lisa and Ben is so strong that he ignored the obvious danger involved in the visit. I felt badly for Dean that the vampire tendencies trying to take hold made him rough with Lisa and shove Ben away. I do so hope he can fix things with Lisa, but the aborted phone message at the end of the episode makes me believe that their relationship glass is half EMPTY, not full.
Despite Dean’s valiant effort to reconnect with Sam, the brothers’ relationship continues to deteriorate. It broke my heart when Dean asked Sam how long it had been since they had a beer together and Sam blew him off. Why did Sam want Dean to return to hunting in the first place? He seems hell bent on treating Dean more like an annoyance rather than a hunting partner. He is full of arrogance and rancor. (Can you tell Sam continues to tick me off this week?) When Sam asked his brother “what did you see?” in the moments both before and after Dean imbibed the cure, my hackles stood at attention and I made a Very Angry Noise. Sam was more concerned about an insider’s look into a vampire nest instead of whether or not the cure would actually work. You know, even when Sam was running off with Ruby and drinking gallons of demon blood, I never got this mad at him. Now, I want to girl fight with him, hair pulling and scratching included, even if I can recall the years I spent regarding him as my beloved Sammy. Especially in light of…
THE SMILE. The moment that made my insides freeze and my jaw hit the floor. I could hear the collective gasp of fans around the world. I’m not alone, of this I am sure, in wondering WHAT THE EVER LOVING HELL was that about? He stopped to watch Dean be manhandled and then turned by a vampire. There was no hesitation to his hesitation. He full out stopped and watched. And smiled. He fudgin’ smiled! There is nothing redeemable about that moment. There is no excuse Sam can offer that will ever make it okay that he stood by and let his brother be turned into a monster. I don’t care if he has Lucifer inside him, or if he was brought by by God Himself to study monsters up close and personal—the most important thing to a Winchester (as we all know by now) is family. Sam watching Dean get turned was the anathema of the Winchester Family Code. The fact that Dean SAW the smile during his Memento-esque walk through his vampiric memories was absolutely heartbreaking. I have never felt so much pity for Dean before. I cannot imagine the emotional decimation that Sam’s look/smile caused. And yet, even knowing Sam essentially betrayed him, Dean continues to travel and hunt with him. The foreshadowing is there—of course it’s there—when Dean pointedly asks Sam if his brother has his back “no matter what.” Sam gives the smile of liars and reassures him “of course.” Of course my assbutt, Sam. I cannot wait for the confrontation that is brewing. Did I see a punch in the preview for next week’s episode? It’s about time!
Jensen Ackles was on the top of his game this week, as was Jared Padalecki. I know that their portrayal of Dean and Sam in this emotion-wrecking episode was the thing that makes this episode skyrocket to the #2 position on Bekah’s Top Ten Favorite Episodes (there’s just no conquering “Lazarus Rising” and Castiel’s grand entrance). Jensen was emotionally raw; Jared was cold and detached. The pair of them gave me chills. Also, a special You Go Boy to Joseph D. Reitman for his creeptastic turn as Boris the vampire. He gave me a serious case of the willies!
Kudos to the writer (Brett Matthews) and director (Jan Eliasberg) for the gay friendly nods in this episode. I appreciated flippant ‘meh, who cares’ attitude of the brothers over the man-on-man kiss at The Black Rose. I also appreciated that Dean did not go all Homophobic Testerone Overload when Boris called him pretty, or when Boris macked on him in the vampire nest.
Speaking of the writing on this episode… it was fantastic. I think Brett Matthews may be my new favorite Supernatural writer. You may recognize his name for his work on “Firefly” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. The subtle– and not so subtle– digs on Stephanie Meyer’s “The Twilight Saga” had me in tears during the first ten minutes (hey, I’m a Twilight fan, but that only made it funnier!). Once the episode turned serious, Mr. Matthews struck a perfect chord, especially with the conversation between Sam and Samuel about whether or not Sam LET Dean get turned into a vampire. Also of note was the interactions between the characters while in the nest. Brilliant, the lot of it.
Jan Eliasberg is new to directing “Supernatural”. What a way to make his presence known! He knocked it out of the park, rivaling the work of Phil Sgriccia and Eric Kripke in my humble opinion. Maybe it was the way he led Sam down the path of utmost betrayal with a flip little smile. Or the way he had Sam lie with that little set of jaw, that any fan would recognize as BS in a nanosecond. The camera angles and fuzzed edges to Dean’s vision was an awesome touch that put viewers into Dean’s disorientation and really added to the emotional journey. I hope Mr. Eliasberg takes a stab at another episode this Season. I’m excited to see more of his work with our boys.
Overall, this is the best episode of the Season. Heck, this might be the best episode we’ve seen in several Seasons! This is the first one of Season Six that I had to immediately rewatch. I have talked about this episode for HOURS with friends and I have yet to tire of it. That, to me, is the mark of a truly extraordinary television experience. Sera, I tip my hat—hell, every hat I own—to you this week. You have restored my faith and re-engerized my enthusiasm. Way to fudgin’ go!
Bekah’s Been Drinkin’ (Blood blood blood):
I took a swig everytime blood appeared on the screen. That.Was.A.Lot. I counted 22 the first time I watched and 38 the second time. I blame my shock for the ones I missed during the first go-round. It was kind of fun. Everytime we saw blood, we actually said “blood!” which made us giggle.
Next week: Join me in drinking every time any character says “true”, “truth”, or any variance thereof.