Supernatural: "Abandon All Hope"
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Supernatural: "Abandon All Hope"

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Supernatural

"Abandon All Hope"

Season 5, Episode 10
Hey, remember Ellen and Jo, the only two non-dead recurring non-evil female characters on the show? Remember how they disappeared for a while, but then came back for this season, and it was like, we're gonna be fighting against Lucifer, so we gotta have all the good guys together again?
Yeah. That didn't last so long, did it.

I've mostly been impressed with the way Supernatural has expanded on its mythology over the years, taking what started as a one note premise and then expanding it and developing it as the series went on. If you'd asked me back when the show started if I thought it could last this long and not become completely ridiculous, I would've said no. (I wasn't a big fan of season one.) But somehow, it has. It's not perfect, but at least when an issue is raised, you know there's a good chance of it being resolved before we move to the next weird nasty thing.

But just because I can be impressed by this, and appreciate the thought and care that goes into it, doesn't mean I actually like it. The season arcs on Supernatural have always been a required element to tie the series together from episode to episode. These days, genre shows can't really be entirely standalone, and I think that's for the best; unlike comedies, hour-long dramas need at some sense of time passing and change to seem cohesive. But as talented as the writers behind Supernatural generally are, the arcs they've come up with (yellow-eyed demon, soul-selling, angels, etc.) are rarely of interest in and of themselves. As the show's improved, those arcs have made it more compulsively watchable, but no matter how good the writing gets, it can't overcome the fact that there really isn't that much depth here. This isn't Lost or Buffy or Battlestar Galactica, and that's fine. It's just a fun hour of TV every Thursday, no more, no less.

All of this I've mentioned before, and I only bring up here to try and explain why I was indifferent to some parts of "Abandon All Hope." This one was entirely dedicated to the Winchesters and their big last ditch attempt to take down Lucifer with the Colt. It had to happen because we need to move to the next step of the Lucifer plot, and there were definitely sequences here that worked very well--and I'll get to those in a sec. But despite what I just said about season-long plots being important to hold a show together, "Hope" was weirdly disparate at times, more a conjunction of scenes than a complete episode.

Ellen and Jo suffer the worse from that. I've always been frustrated by the fact that, despite constant assertions to the contrary, Sam and Dean are largely alone as hunters. They've got Bobby as back-up, and occasionally we bump into some other rednecks with shotguns, but in general, there's not really a system here. That's hard to believe, especially now that Lucifer is out running around doing, well, presumably horrible things. (I can buy if Sam and Dean were pariahs because of their involvement with jump-starting the Apocalypse, but why not deal with that directly? We had one scene of Sam running into trouble, and that's it.) Ellen and Jo provided at least a little bit of world-building, a sense that the struggle our heroes are engaged in doesn't begin and end with them. (Although basically, it does.) And now, after two or three guest spots this year, they're both dead. It's not a bad exit, very dramatic and sad and so forth, but I had no emotional investment in either of them; apart from some good acting on both ladies parts, and Jo's basic cuteness, I didn't care. The whole sequence was a random excuse for darkness, just to prove that their are consequences, and it was a waste.

"Hope" wasn't awful. The episode (directed by Philip Sgriccia and written by Ben Edlund) looked great, with lots of neat editing tricks played around Cass, and some very spooky moments, from the shot of all of the reapers standing in town, patiently waiting, to Lucifer's casual "Oh hello, Death" to the camera at the end. I kind of dig this version of Meg (Rachel Miner), tired as I am of the show's reliance on the hot evil chick card. And I dig how unrepentantly weird and creepy the current storyline is getting--it's a risk, to drive this far away from the traditional reality of the series, but if it pays off, we are in for some very satisfyingly spooky stuff down the road.

Still, it's hard to have faith with twists as lame as "Oh, sorry, I'm one of the five things the Colt can't kill." That's it? No reversals, no tricks, no veering away, just, ah, well, that won't work. I mean we knew it wasn't going to work, but at least they could've put a little more effort in. The opening sequence at Crowley's place was actually the most surprising thing in the ep (apart from Ellen and Jo go boom, of course), and it gave us a terrific appearance by Mark Sheppard. He called the Winchester "functioning morons," and, well, it's kind of hard to disagree with him. (Even if Crowley himself didn't realize the Satan was Colt-proof.) Their final play got two of their best allies killed, and gained them nothing. Let's hope that changes soon

Stray Observations:
  • I still don't understand making a deal with the Devil. 10 years of good times, and then an eternity of really not very good at all times. I understand it's designed for people who don't really have a good grasp on consequences, but Hell must be full of smokers and five year-olds.
  • Hope we see some more of Crowley.
  • "Ever heard of a door handle?" "Course I have."
  • That picture burning moment at the end--very powerful and so forth, but, uh, why would you take a group picture to remember everyone and then burn it as soon as somebody in the picture dies? That's not doing remembering right.
  • See you in January, gang!