This one is a little tricky. I’ve already spent plenty of time discussing how Supernatural treats its female characters, and how that treatment often leaves something to be desired. The problem hasn’t ever been completely resolved, and it’s important to acknowledge it every now and again, but I’m willing to cut the show a certain amount of slack. I like the leads, and I like the premise. Everyone’s mileage on this sort of thing differs. Some of you think I take this too seriously, and that’s fine; I’m sure there are also people who gave up on the show years ago for the opposite reason. My goal is to find some sort of happy medium, where I can provide a decent, mildly entertaining review, while still commenting enough on the occasional sexism and weird uber-machismo vibe to be able to live with myself. But even in that context, “The Slice Girls” is an odd one. At times, it was fine, and then the last ten minutes or so happened, and all the fine stuff was suddenly a lot less fine.
A large part of the problem here is just context. After all these years of dead ladies and what not, here we have an episode in which the main villain is, essentially, Women. Oh sure, they’re Amazonians, and they worship the god Harmonia, and they have the magical ability to grow up really fast and develop Jem-style make-up when they get truly, truly, truly outrageous. But the two Amazons we get to know best are basically the two ways Supernatural seems to be able to view women: there’s the hottie (Lydia, played by Sara Canning, probably most familiar to CW watchers as Aunt Jenna on The Vampire Diaries) who picks Dean up at a bar for a one night stand, and then there’s the teenager, Emma (Alexia Fast, who apparently was on this show as a different character in 2006), who shows up at Dean’s door begging to be protected. It’s either the predator or the victim, but deep down, both these ladies are predators, which means it’s perfectly justified when the shooting starts. I can’t exactly quantify why this makes me uncomfortable, because it’s not horrifically misogynist or anything, it’s just distracting. Lydia and Emma aren’t acting that much different than any other monster on the show, although Emma’s “Oh look, I’m evil now!” performance is a little one-note. Canning does as good a job as could be expected, given the material she’s given; it’s impressive how much of an inner life she’s able to suggest in the few scenes she’s in.
I really don’t want to have to deal with all this, but the show seems intent on rubbing it in our faces without providing any clear hint of self-awareness. And that’s frustrating, because enough of this episode worked that I’d much rather be talking about. Like, f’r instance, the kill sequences. I’m not sure how well the Amazons were handled on the whole, but it was a nice change of pace to see dudes getting graphically murdered instead of the traditional damsel in distress (and multiple pieces). While Dean’s mopiness can be frustrating, I appreciate the efforts the show is making in terms of consistent characterization, and Jensen Ackles continues to make the most of the arc. The addition of a new loremaster, Professor Morrison, made for some good comic relief (it’s always great to see Harry Groener, aka The Mayor from Buffy), and the mystery was a decent one. Sure, there were no great revelations here, but there were enough random pieces I couldn’t help being interested in how they all came together.
Too bad, then, that the climax brought everything together in a way that made it all about Dean and Sam once again. Instead of the Winchesters facing off against a group of pissed off Amazon warriors (which could’ve been cool), we instead get two deaths; Sam shoots the cop who turns out to be an Amazon herself, and then he shoots Dean’s daughter, Emma, before she can kill her father. Instead of being a story about a cult driven by its own ideals of honor and justice, or a tale of Sam and Dean kicking ass and saving lives, it turns out to be an excuse to remind us that Dean isn’t doing so hot, and oh yeah, he’s probably got a death wish. Really, then, the worst crime this episode commits isn’t that it makes women out to be monsters (although there is a certain vibe—it’s hard to think of a more stereotypical male nightmare then, “I banged some chick, and then the next day our daughter came and murdered me!”), or that it fails to give us much of a sense of the Amazons beyond a few hints and a slide show. The worst crime is that it turns what could’ve been an interesting episode into another footnote in the epic saga of Sam and Dean Bein’ Angsty. Emma isn’t a character, she’s a prop with a squib on her chest, and that’s worse than offensive--it’s boring.
- I’m not sure “investment banker” is the best fake job to impress people with these days, Dean.
- It’s great to hear some classic rock on the show again, but playing AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” over a one night stand is a bit predictable. (Inter-cutting the hook-up with a scene of another guy getting murdered mitigates this somewhat, but still.)
- What was with all the super intense close-ups? They never really went anywhere, beyond reminding us the camera has a zoom.
- Dean is getting super lazy with the surveillance. To keep an eye on Lydia during the day, he parks across the street, and then follows a car and parks maybe a hundred feet down an alley to watch them.
- I don’t really understand Sam and Dean’s aggressive attempts to Scully each other. Dean, maybe, makes sense; he’s grumpy about everything. But Sam being so quick to dismiss Dean’s concerns makes no sense. I don’t care how much he’s been drinking, Dean isn’t prone to stupid mistakes.