So, it looks like we finally have season six's Big Bad--Eve, the Mother of All. And I gotta say, I'm not all that impressed. For one thing, Supernatual has always struggling with how to handle its female characters; it seems like every other week, some lip-gloss, personality-free cast-off from Beverly Hills is murdered, menaced, or possessed, and the word "bitch" gets thrown around more often than Sam gives Dean one his patented Soulful Eyes stares. Choosing to make one of those ladies the main villain, and failing to give her any more depth or character beyond "She's blandly hot and she uses that hotness for EVIL" is problematic, to say the least. And naming her "Eve" just raises a lot of unpleasant issues about Christianity's long history of pinning Original Sin on one poor, mythical lady who liked apples. (Or grapes, or figs, or--well, she was a fan of fruit, is all.) Do we really need a bunch of guys teaming up to shoot some twenty year-old in a nightgown? Whatever the justification, it's not exactly what makes for exciting television.
And that's the big problem right there. I'm more than happy to pick apart the show's gender issues, because that's something that should be talked about, and because it's a shame that such a fun show keeps making the same damn mistakes. At the same time, I wouldn't still be a fan if I wasn't able to look past those mistakes, and when Supernatural works well (like it did last week), it's possible to have these concerns, while still enjoying what the series does best: monsters, gore, humor, and a terrific central sibling relationship. Unfortunately, all of these were lacking tonight (except for the gore). If Eve had some personality, if she was frightening or impressive as her entrance a few weeks back seemingly deserved, that would be one thing. But the cold open of tonight's episode, "And Then There Were None," showed a mediocre villain, played by a mediocre actress, who does mediocre things. Ooo, giving a trucker an ear worm. Like I've never seen that before.
The episode never really gets much better, either. To the good, Bobby's back, and so is Rufus, his old hunting partner who has a slightly more hands-on approach to the business. Steven Williams is always a welcome presence, and he and Bobby have fine chemistry together; the series often tries to give us the sense that Sam and Dean are part of a community with a long and dangerous history, but that only ever feels real when we actually see old hunters working again, sniping about the past and grumbling about their age. "None" also marks the return of Samuel and Gwen. We saw Samuel in flashback during "Unforgiven," but this is the first time the Winchesters have dealt with him since he betrayed the boys in "Caged Heat." There's a lot of dramatic potential in that reunion, considering that Dean vowed to kill Samuel the next time he sees him, and Gwen, who was sympathetic before, doesn't know what went down.
What went wrong, then? For starters, this week's monster was disappointingly unimaginative. I'm used to Supernatural riffing on creatures from other movies and myths--that's a big part of the show's charm, after all. But the ear-worm isn't just a concept they stole from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It's a concept they stole without adding any new twist or design, with a creature that looks almost exactly like the little bugger that made Chekov betray his captain so many years ago. Even worse, that's not the only source being ripped off here. "None" often plays like a rip-off of a classic X-Files episode, "Ice," which had Mulder and Scully trapped in a science base in a frozen wasteland as an alien parasite infected them and those around them and turned them murderous and paranoid. Here we have all the same ideas: a small group, a fair amount of bad blood, and a whole lot of trust issues.
The thing is, "Ice" was itself ripping off John Carpenter's The Thing--but that doesn't make "Ice" a bad ep. Rip-offs aren't a huge concern on television, provided the idea can be done well, and if being a little overly familiar was "None"'s biggest problem, I wouldn't be complaining too loudly. (Although I'd probably still snicker at the "zapping each other with electricity" scene, which is very nearly a photocopy of one of The Thing's tensest sequences.) No, the issue here is that "None" is mostly dull, and thoroughly half-assed throughout. Characters don't seem to be thinking very clearly ("Hey, one of us is probably infected with the mind-control bug! So sure, why don't you go off alone for a bit, I'm sure that's fine."), and while people drop left and right, there's no real intensity or danger to any of it. "Ice" worked beautifully because it showed our heroes at their most desperate. Nobody in "None" seems particularly desperate. None even when they're shooting each other in the head.
That's what really adds insult to injury here. Three characters died tonight, and all of them were recurring, and all of them, even Samuel, deserved better. Gwen, who was, if I'm remembering right, the only bad-ass woman left on the show, goes down before the halfway mark. Sam shoots Samuel in the head. And then Bobby stabs Rufus in the chest, and the last scene of the episode is him and the Winchesters standing over Rufus's grave. Sure, the deaths were surprising, and killing off familiar faces when the audience isn't expecting it can be a great way to subvert a show's course and create a ton of momentum. Here, though, it's just random and flat. There's no particular reason these three people had to die. It could've been another guest cast. But now we've cut down on the series extended world, for no real reason other than to cover for what is, in the final estimation, a weak, sloppy piece of work. There are good moments here (Bobby and Rufus's exchange about Omaha was effective, and, while it doesn't really go anywhere, Sam's willingness to shoot Samuel was a great character beat for him), but they never add to much, and the whole hour left a bad taste in my mouth. After the giddy pleasures of "The French Mistake," I was expecting this week might be a come down. I wasn't expecting it to be this weak, though. Supernatural is off till April 15th; here's hoping they spend the next month and a half getting their groove back.
- Do we really need another villain who goes to great lengths to subvert people's faith in God? It's been done, lady.
- "Why do you keep talking about herpes?" "What? I don't. Shut up. Shut up!"