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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Supernatural: “Captives”

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Welcome to the home stretch of this season of Supernatural. The seams have really started to show in the last few episodes, haven’t they? After a few so-so standalone stories, “Captives” finally got back to the season’s mythology, which until now has been pretty stellar, playing several different forces and new concepts off each other in fun, dizzying chaos. Rather than begin the hurtle toward the finale, “Captives” plays like the mythology equivalent of a standalone, focused on a single, episodic task without quite connecting enough to the rest of the season to really get the juices flowing.

The hook for “Captives” is certainly promising—Kevin’s ghost is haunting the Men Of Letters bunker, and sends Sam and Dean (who are both in the bunker, if not quite on speaking terms) off to find his mother. (His mother!) Yes, Ms. Tran is alive, as people have been speculating in the comments since she died and we didn’t see a body. It’s great to have Lauren Tom back, even if she doesn’t get to play much of the semi-ridiculous, tough-as-nails comic side of Linda Tran we all know and love with the exception of a quick display of the technical knowledge she picked up from Kevin. Hopefully we’ll get a bit more of that later in the season, after Sam and Dean retrieve her from the demon holding her hostage (an “intern” who basically complains about what a shitty boss Crowley is, which is pretty funny considering he generally comes across as good at getting other demons to like/fear him) and take her back to Kevin’s ghost.

Unfortunately, the actual process of freeing her is mostly pointless, since we know the Winchesters will succeed and there isn’t much additional suspense. (Though it might be worth asking why Crowley is keeping his hostages in storage units instead of in, I don’t know, Hell.) Instead, this part of the episode is a way of getting us to still more Winchester guilt and infighting after Ms. Tran continually asks to see her son, upping the pain before Sam and Dean have to tell her that Kevin is gone. But instead of getting all angsty the way he’s done in the past, Kevin tells the Winchesters to put aside their schisms. “The drama, the fighting. It’s stupid,” he says. Truer words, Kevin. But, at the end of the episode, the Winchesters go right back to fighting, and we’re guaranteed angst through at least one more week (if not the rest of the season). It’s a huge bummer that this is what we’re spending time on, instead of all of the awesome stuff that’s been introduced into the mythology. Remember the Mark Of Cain? Where’s my deep dive episode on that with Timothy Omundson? I’m not sure if we’ll see more of Osric Chau this season (or ever), but it might not be the best idea for the show. The thing is, this “ghost goodbye” thing worked really well for Bobby. Kevin is no Bobby, but he’s an established enough character that he at least deserves a unique extended sendoff.

Meanwhile, Cas gets picked up by some of Bartholomew’s angels and, after the two catch up, is asked to help solidify Bart’s faction in Heaven. Cas’ “friendship” with Bart is just another iteration in his endless quest to define his role in angel-kind, and not a particularly good one at that. Bart is yet another authority figure for Cas to throw in with whom then betrays him and reveals himself to be comically evil. Literally, just after discussing their fruitful collaboration, Bart tells Cas, “I’m going to torture the rebel, find out what he knows, then kill him. And you’re going to help.” This is the sort of torturous dialogue that knocks the episode down a bit by itself, especially when Cas claims soon after that what he did is not who he is… These sorts of protestations from him are wearing awfully thin. And, of course, at the end of the episode, several angels show up to begin forming what will, of course, become an army that Cas will mess up leading. If the Cas story starts to be as frustrating as the Winchester fighting, Supernatural might succeed at squandering a really promising start to the season, and that’d be a huge bummer.

It doesn’t help that “Captives” is kind of weirdly directed. This isn’t an aspect of the show I usually focus on unless it’s especially snappy, since most episodes are at least competent. But everything here is flatter and just a touch less interesting, which is really too bad after the truly awesome cold open, when Dean shoots at Kevin’s ghost and simply says, “Yup, bunker’s haunted.” Jerry Wanek’s only other directing credit for the series is a totally forgettable season seven episode (“The Slice Girls”), so it’s not totally surprising that this one is also a bit of a snooze. Throughout “Captives,” everyone keeps talking about the parts of this season that are really interesting. Bartholomew was engaged in the hunt for Metatron, whose master plan (along with Gadreel) is much more mysterious and way cooler than the simple “angels trying to amass followers” we’ve seen repeated without any variation since the introduction of Heaven to the series. The introduction of Kevin’s ghost adds an interesting wrinkle to the already complicated role of death in the show’s world. And Dean leaves a bunch of voice messages on Crowley’s phone, begging Mark Sheppard to come back into our lives. Let’s hope he does, and soon.

Stray observations:

  • So it looks like next week is the Snooki episode? I wonder if the order got swapped, which might have hurt this one.
  • Also next week: GHOSTFACERS!
  • “Internships suck.” Except at The A.V. Club!