Supernatural Review: Episode 8×15 “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits”

Review of Episode 8×15: “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits” (AKA “OMG, What’s Wrong with Sammy?!?”)
by castiello

Overall: Well, the streak had to end sometime. This ep, which explored (in possibly too much depth) the relationship between witches and their familiars, was decent but not off-the-charts great. The final five seconds were the most significant of the whole ep, and I’ll howl about those later, but first:

Sam: What happened to the conversations these guys had last week? The ones about each guy wanting to do the trials so the other one would survive? Apparently those conversations went *poof!* and the issue of who should complete God’s trials became a trust issue. Since when does Dean not trust Sam to get the job done? I would think that completing the ultimate task – the one where Sam took control of Lucifer and stopped the freakin’ apocalypse – would be good enough to earn Dean’s trust forever. Obviously, Sam is more than capable of pulling his weight when the crap is hitting the fan, and Dean should know this. Therefore, the “trust problem” raised in this ep seemed a bit contrived – like the writers really needed something for Sam and Dean to fight about during the ep, and resolve at the end. Sure, you could argue that a lot of stuff has happened since Sam stopped Lucifer, stuff that might make Dean a little hesitant to put his faith in Sammy, e.g. Sam covering up the seriousness of his mental illness in Season Seven, or Sam not looking for Dean after Dean was blasted to Purgatory (I like to just pretend Number Two didn’t happen). But bottom line: the trust argument didn’t ring true for me, and I was glad it only spanned one episode.

Sam’s reaction to the dog was cute. We know he loves pooches, so of course he’d let the dog come right in. I also really like how Sam speaks to dogs – I like his “dog voice” and I like how he talks to them as though they can understand exactly what he’s saying – which, in this case, was actually true. His nervous anticipation of Dean’s reaction was funny, and the brothers’ collective reaction to seeing the woman on the bed was priceless. There was a lot of humor in this one (Dean: “That was hot.” Sam: “It was pretty hot.” Sam: “I proud of you, Dean – twenty-four hours and not one bestiality joke.”), though some of the “funny” bordered on icky.

Dean: Is allergic to cats, apparently. I don’t remember him sneezing when that cat popped out during “Yellow Fever,” but then again, he was probably too busy shrieking like a five-year-old girl for the nasal allergies to kick in. This episode also told us loud and clear that Dean doesn’t like dogs. I wonder if this is a lifelong distaste, or something that cropped up more recently because of his experience getting mauled by a hellhound.

There may actually be some merit to Sam’s line “You can only trust you.” In some ways, Dean really is the only person who has always, without fail, been there for Dean. John dropped the ball numerous times, leaving Dean alone to care for Sam when the boys were young. Sam went off to college and has wavered in his commitment to the hunt at various points. Sam also didn’t try to find out what happened to Dean after the exploding-Dick incident, but like I said, I’m not dwelling on that part. So, you could make a case for Dean not trusting Sam to complete the tasks – but that’s not what I felt from Dean in the previous episode. I felt his emotion when he said he wanted Sam to live – and that’s all. Not “I don’t think you’re up for it,” or “I think you’re going to wuss out and go to back to college halfway through the final task.” Just “I want you to live.” Plain and simple. Truth is, Sam’s always been there when Dean really needed him to be, from showing up in the orchard in “Scarecrow,” to dragging himself back to consciousness after Cass knocked down the mental wall. And although Dean eventually came to the whole “we’re stronger together” realization after looking at some flashbacks, this is something he should have known all along.

James: So, Sam and Dean have a cop friend, who’s now a witch. In “Malleus Maleficarum,” the witches gained their power by unknowingly swearing themselves over to the Dark One. The demon in that episode told a member of her coven, “You sold yourself to me, you pig.” So, I thought that’s how witches got their powers – by calling upon dark forces and essentially making a pact with a devil. I’m not really sure how the witches in this ep got their powers, or what they were using them for (aside from James, who apparently only uses his for good), but I was a little confused at the inconsistency. Then again, we’ve seen Sam, Dean, Bobby and Henry all cast spells and perform incantations without the assistance of dark forces, so clearly magic is something that can be learned and used by anyone with the right spell book. Maybe the difference is that the witches in “Malleus Maleficarum” were using magic for their own personal gain, while Sam, Dean, James, etc only use magic for the benefit of mankind?

Portia: A really awesome dog…er, person. I was kind of uncomfortable with her wearing a collar and calling James her “Master.” She obviously has human-level intelligence. She also has strong morals and a great capacity for forming emotional bonds. All of this says to me that she – and the other familiars – should not be subordinates to their witches, but equal partners. Yet, when cat-boy (LeChat) got a “direct order” from his master, he had no choice but to obey. That is just all kinds of wrong. Another thing that’s all kinds of wrong: cropping the ears and tails of dogs. I wish this episode had used a dog with natural ears and a natural tail – not only because I disagree with cropping, but because cropping didn’t make sense with the animal-to-human transformation. I mean, I don’t know about the tail, but wouldn’t parts of her ears be missing in human form, if she’d had them cropped in canine form?

The Last Five Seconds: So, moments after Dean finally declares that he trusts Sam, Sam starts coughing up blood. My first thought: the episode isn’t over, and one of the other witches is hexing Sam. But then the episode ended, making the possibilities so much worse. It could be: A) Something terribly, physically wrong with Sam that has nothing to do with the supernatural. B) A reaction to having his dangerous hell-memories dredged up. Or C) A physical symptom having to do with the trials, which the boys foolishly started without having all the information, because they only have half a tablet. Option C is the most likely, and probably the most terrifying. My best guess for why Sam is suddenly not doing so good: the trials probably have some sort of time limit. Maybe once you start the tasks, you have to finish them within a certain time frame, or you’re screwed. Right now, Sam is screwed. And the worst part is, Dean likely isn’t going to find out for a while, which will make the situation fifty times worse.

Final Thoughts: The worst thing that could happen to Dean: something bad happening to his little brother. The worst thing that could happen to a Dean-girl: something bad happening to Dean’s little brother. Bad things are happening. My heart is a giant, beating lump in my throat.

My Favorite Fiction E-zines

As writers, we’re supposed to read every day. We’re supposed to study the work of other writers, and learn from it. We’re supposed to have extensive knowledge of our genres, so as not to repeat a story that’s been told five gazillion times. But in this insanely busy world, most of us are lucky if we manage to find a few hours a week to write, much less read. Clearly, we’re not going to make it to Barnes and Noble to pick up a new thriller every day – so how do we keep our critical reading skills fresh? For me, the answer is simple: e-zines. There are numerous quality, free-to-read e-zines on the web, which allow readers regular access to brand-new stories, all without leaving the comfort of a cushy computer chair.

The following are three of my favorite e-zines. None of them charge for subscriptions, and all of them publish new stories on a regular basis. Also, I should add that all three of these are paying markets, currently open for submissions. So, what are you waiting for? Go check them out:

Every Day Fictionhttp://www.everydayfiction.com/ )

This is a flash fiction zine that publishes a new story every single day. All genres are welcome, and each piece is only 1,000 words or less – short enough to read in the morning before your commute, or while you’re wolfing down Cheetos on your lunch break. This magazine has great variety in terms of the styles and subject matters it publishes. One day you’re reading about a little girl trying to save a weird, cat-like creature on an alien world, the next day you’re reading about a dude who’s in love with a painting. Fresh, edgy and experimental writing goes side-by-side with more traditional prose in this cool flash zine. Stories can be sent directly to your email, and are also available on the website. Older stories remain on the site, archived by category.

Daily Science Fictionhttp://dailysciencefiction.com/ )

This zine publishes new science fiction and fantasy stories Monday through Friday. Like EDF, the stories can be sent directly to your email, or you can read them on the site. DSF tends to publish flash stories on the first four days of the week, with a longer story on Fridays. Most of the stories they publish have this really beautiful, literary quality. One of the neat things about this e-zine is that you don’t really have to be a fan of the science fiction/fantasy genre to appreciate the stories, since so many of them are character-driven. Another nifty feature: like EDF, the stories on the site are archived by category, so if you just want to read about monsters, or robots, or any other specific topic, you can get there with a click of a button.

Knowonder! http://www.knowonder.com/ )

Here’s one for children’s fiction authors! This magazine has a (non-free) print version which publishes thirty new stories each month, but you can read ten of those thirty stories on their website for free! The emphasis is on read-aloud stories with prose that engages all of the senses and adventures that capture the imaginations of young children. The tales range from humorous to action-filled, and are all, of course, kid-friendly. Definitely a can’t-miss site for children’s writers and also for Moms who are a little bit tired of reading Goodnight, Moon every single night.

Now you’ve got three great magazines to read, each just a mouse-click away. So, go get your daily dose of fiction!

-Gretchen

Mentalist Review: Episode 5×14 “Red in Tooth and Claw”

Review of Episode 5×14: “Red in Tooth and Claw” (AKA “Ultimate Death-Match: T-Rex vs. Triceratops!”)
by castiello

Overall: Cho and Rigsby duked it out over their favorite dinos, Lisbon went to bat for her youngest team member, Van Pelt got all geeky about a computer class, and Jane danced mental circles around a group of over-stressed grad students. Despite a predictable case, this episode had just enough humor, sweetness, and team involvement to make it memorable.

Lisbon: She fainted at the sight of a worm-festooned corpse…What’s up with that? It seemed highly out of character for this normally-unflappable and non-squeamish agent. I can’t ever remember Lisbon being “icked out” by a body before. Jane, yes – but not Lisbon. Usually when a woman faints on television, it means her character’s either pregnant, or seriously ill. However, the moment seemed to be played purely for comedy, with no follow-up mentions that would typically come after illness- or pregnancy-induced swooning. Therefore, I took it as a weird, not-quite-in-character moment that most likely doesn’t have any further significance in the series (other than letting the audience know that Lisbon has an issue with crawly things).

One of the things I loved about this episode: the way Lisbon talked about Van Pelt. There was clear affection in Lisbon’s voice as she told Bertram how much Van Pelt had been gushing over White Hat. And in a way, I’m kind of glad Lisbon didn’t send Jane to help Bertram with his poker face. Bertram told Lisbon there was no money for the training program, and she took him at his word. It didn’t occur to her that if she got Bertram in a better mood, the funds might magically appear. I like that she still has enough integrity not to think of manipulation as a solution for every problem. That said, I also like that Bertram gave her credit for a plan she didn’t come up with. She has out-maneuvered him in the past, and it’s good that he sees her as someone who can go toe-to-toe with him and come out on top.

Jane: Sometimes, I feel like Jane is my kid. Sometimes, he acts so selfish, spoiled or immature that I just want to cringe. Sometimes, when he gets out of his car at a crime scene, I want to say, “Please, please don’t embarrass me…” In this episode, however, he did the exact opposite: he made me proud. Here, we enjoyed the return of gift-bearing Jane (it’s been a long time since those fancy watches and necklaces…) and helpful Jane, a guy who – without being asked – goes out of his way to do something kind for his friends. In teaching Bertram how to win at poker, Jane helped both Van Pelt and Lisbon. It didn’t risk anyone’s life or cost anyone anything (except that one judge), and was possibly one of the nicest things Jane’s done in a good long time. Any time that Jane is thinking of others, rather than himself, is a time to celebrate!

I did feel his hurt, though, that no one said “thank you” for the gifts. That was kind of rude. Sure, the presents weren’t as expensive as the ugly watches, but in a way the dinosaurs were much more thoughtful – he picked out something he thought each team member would appreciate. If Van Pelt had been there, I have no doubt she would’ve said “Thanks, Jane!” with a big grin on her face. One thing I did question, however: Where was Lisbon’s gift? Or, maybe poker lessons with Bertram were the gift. Getting to tell Van Pelt they’d secured the funding for White Hat was probably the best present Lisbon could’ve received.

Van Pelt: Her excitement about White Hat made me excited for her! I could feel her gloom when she thought she wouldn’t get to go, but I knew it would work out in the end. I think the writers found a good explanation for her character’s absence – it fits with her expertise, and could make for some really cool storylines when she gets back. She’ll be able to help solve cases even faster with her super-awesome hacking skills – hey, maybe she can even hack the Visualize database and get Jane the info about the Ellison farm! The only thing that bothered me about VP’s storyline in this episode is that maybe the writers could have thrown in a mention or two about White Hat earlier in the season, so it didn’t just pop up out of nowhere.

Cho/Rigs: These guys were at it again with their hilarious banter, arguing over whose dinosaur was better. They gave the ep a healthy injection of humor (Cho: “I stopped asking questions a long time ago…” Rigs: “Don’t play with spiders, kids!”) but also balanced it out with the first serious mention of Rigsby’s feelings for Van Pelt in a couple years. I was one of the people who actually didn’t mind how quickly Rigs and VP got together romantically – or how quickly they broke up. In the seasons since then, we’ve gotten to see both of these characters in other relationships – we saw Grace engaged to a man who tried to kill her. We saw Rigsby propose to the mother of his child. We’ve seen both of them change and grow through their experiences, and all the while Amanda and Owain have skillfully played that underlying connection – a connection that gives me no doubt that when these characters finally do get back together, it’ll be better than ever before.

Bertram: What a baby! And a sore loser! Jeez Louise! I do love that we’re continuing to see the poker games, though, and that Lisbon continues to use these opportunities to gain information and make allies. Season Five has done a good job on the card game continuity front, but not such a good job on the FBI rivalry – what happened to that FBI Agent who wanted to go out with Lisbon? Do we still see him at the games? Have we even heard the FBI mentioned lately? I thought they were going to be the big “enemies” this year. Of course, with the new episodes spaced so far apart, it’s harder to view the episodes as a continuum. If I’m ever lucky enough to own this season on DVD, I’ll see if the episodes hang together better when viewed right in a row.

Random Notes: I knew the killer was the Moth Kid pretty much right away. I actually thought he’d faked the new moth somehow and the other girl found out, which didn’t turn out to be the case, but nonetheless I did know it was him. And that it involved the moth. Having the killer revealed so soon didn’t bother me, though, as I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Jane’s brain in action (Memory Palace, I *heart* you!!!) and the scene with Rigsby and the spider was priceless. Also fun: Jane’s version of “bingo” (featuring the word “bad-ass”!). I thought the show did a good job portraying just how much stress the students were under – the lengths they were driven to spoke volumes. I did wish someone would have told that poor cop ex-boyfriend that his girl wasn’t cheating on him – they usually have more of that type of resolution in the show’s final minutes. Having the moth named after the dead girl was a sweet touch, though – another example of how kind-hearted Jane was being in this ep. Oh, and one final note about Jane: he used his wedding ring to deflect a romantic advance. Haven’t seen him fall back on that in a long time. What does it mean?

Final Thoughts: Not a big, mind-blowing episode, here, but lots of little treasures. The team seemed like a family – bickering, teasing, and helping each other. Hope it’s not too long before the next episode, and I really hope it’s not too long before Van Pelt rejoins her colleagues. We’re all gonna miss her so much!!!

 

 

Supernatural Review: Episode 8×14 Trial and Error

Review of Episode 8×14: “Trial and Error”
by castiello

There used to be these two guys. Their names were Sam and Dean. They were brothers, and their childhood was pretty messed up. Their dad, John, was always off hunting werewolves and demons and stuff, so the boys basically raised themselves. As a result of this, they grew very close. So close, in fact, that they came to care more about each other than about themselves. Dean would’ve happily given his life for Sam. Sam would’ve gladly given his life for Dean. Each man wanted the best life and future for his brother, even if it meant the greatest sacrifice of all.

Four nights ago, for the first time in a really friggin’ long time, we got to see those guys.

Welcome back, Sam and Dean.

Dean: “Awwww” moments abounded as Dean set up his new room, complete with weapons on the walls, a Memory Foam mattress (“It remembers me!”) and a faded picture of Mary. If my heart wasn’t already a puddle at that point, the last bit of melting occurred when Dean made some exquisite sandwiches (burgers?) for himself and Sam as a final part of the nesting process. Three cheers for all the fanfic authors who wrote Dean as an artist in the kitchen – your stories are now backed up by canon! It makes sense, too, that Dean knows his way around the stove – growing up, he would’ve been the one cooking dinner for Sam while John was out hunting. ‘Course, back then, he didn’t have much to work with ingredient-wise, so it was nice to see him strutting his culinary stuff in this ep. Sam was so impressed he even took the meal with him!

As touched as I was by Dean’s homemaking, though, his disregard for Kevin’s well-being brought out my grumpy face. 😦 Once again, we have Dean treating a non-family member as expendable. Dean did at least tell Kevin to shower and eat a salad – that was good. But giving Kevin possibly-dangerous, almost-certainly-addictive drugs to mask the pain and keep himself awake? So not cool. If it was Sam running himself into the ground like this, you can bet Dean would be saying, “Slow down, take it easy.” Whether Dean knows it or not, he’s treating Kevin like a pawn, and that sucks.

Considering that Dean’s most notable previous experience with a hellhound was getting ripped to pieces, I thought he’d have more of a fear/anxiety issue with facing these creatures. I almost thought that’s why he wanted Sam to stay behind – because Dean couldn’t bear the idea of Sam getting shredded by one of these things. But then Dean gave the real reason he wanted Sam to stay safe: Dean wants Sam to have a life after the quest. Dean feels that whoever does the challenges is bound to get killed in the process. Now that the role has fallen to Sam, I have only one thing to say to Dean: Keep your brother alive!

Honestly, those scenes between the two of them – the one before killing hellhound and the one afterwards – were just magic. Those were the best performances we’ve seen from Jared and Jensen all season. Our guys are talented enough actors to elevate any material they’re given, even if the writing isn’t fantastic. But when the writers give these guys something really powerful to work with – dialogue and storylines that are epic and emotional and true to the characters – that’s when the show really takes my breath away.

Sam: That little nod he gave after inspecting Dean’s room? Perfect. Just a tiny moment that conveyed so much: approval at Dean’s decorating skills, emotion at seeing the picture of Mary, and a sense of righted wrongs. Sam understands that this is how it should be. Dean should’ve had a room his whole life. Sam’s little nod, to me, said, “’Bout time.”

Nice to know Sam appreciates his brother’s cooking. Having an orgasm over eating a cheeseburger is usually Dean’s thing, so to see Sam love the sandwich that much, to see Sam actually come back for the plate – you know it had to be good. 🙂

Sam, at least, did have some proper concern for Kevin. He advised Kevin to slow down and take better care of himself. I like that Sam objected to the drugs, but I wish he had been more forceful, maybe even found a way to take the pills away – he can see Kevin is headed down a dangerous path, even if Kevin and Dean can’t. In the old days, Sam was always in a rush to find Dad and avenge Mom so that the Winchesters could be done with hunting and move on to normal lives. Of course, by now Sam has realized that every time these guys finish one task, they end up with a whole new crisis to deal with. Sam has learned from his experiences – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I only hope Kevin takes Sam’s advice before it’s too late…

Just like Dean, Sam has his own reasons for taking on this latest quest: he doesn’t just want Dean to live – he wants them both to live. Sam earned buckets of my love for his speech about how Dean is a smart person with a promising future (“What about your room?”). Neither one of them is expendable, and they both have a chance to live past the final task. I love you, Sam! I just hope the show’s writers agree with you, because killing off a Winchester is not the way I want to see this series end…(Though, from what I just read over at SFO, we now have at least one more season before that end comes!!! 🙂 )

Kevin: Poor baby. He is treating his body like crap right now. I had a hard time even watching him ingest all that coffee – not to mention the nauseating quantities of hotdogs. Blech! Actually, I’m a vegetarian, so double-blech! I was disappointed to see Kevin turn to the pills in the end, rather than taking Sam’s advice on slowing down. You’d think with all of Kevin’s obsession about test-taking and proper study habits, he would know that taking better care of his body would result in a better performance from his brain. He’s already had nosebleeds and “possibly a small stroke,” so who knows what grim fate awaits him if he keeps pushing himself? 😦

Ellie: A tough, sympathetic and beautiful girl. She sparked with Dean like that blonde in the tech tent sparked with Sam. Also, she made a demon deal to save a family member’s life. Seems like a good match for Dean, if there ever was one. 🙂 I hope Sam and Dean do manage to close up hell for good, so this girl won’t end up down there. It was interesting, the question she asked Dean: “What would you do for your mother?” Interesting, because most often, the battle has been about saving Sam, saving Dad, saving Bobby, saving the world…Mary isn’t actually mentioned that often. However, she was front and center in this episode, from her photo at the beginning, to Ellie’s words near the end, and I think that was to remind us that it does all come back to Mary: John and the boys became hunters to avenge Mary, and now Sam and Dean are driven to lock away all demons, in no small part because of the one that took their mother.

SFX: Good special effects on the hellhounds. I like how they were ghostly/vague/see-through-ish. Less is always more – especially on a television budget – and the current show-runner seems to understand that. Last year’s Leviathan effects were a bit too over-the-top for my tastes. The best CGI is stuff that just blends with reality, not stuff that stands up and screams, “COMPUTER-GENERATED IMAGE!!!” Back in Season Two, after I watched “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things,” I read that the tips of the scissors used to stab the zombie – complete with congealed bloody goop hanging off – were computer-generated. I had no idea, because it was so well-integrated. If I don’t know it’s fake, then it’s a great effect.

Random Notes: Loved the holy-fire-scorched specs. That was brilliance. Also: Sam and Dean, in glasses? I think it’s getting hot in here…Also (x2): Does it bother anyone else that these guys are risking their lives based on info obtained from HALF of a tablet? I mean, would you make a casserole for your family if you only had half of the recipe? What if some of the ingredients are left out? What if there’s a necessary step on the missing part of the page, like you have to brown the meat before dumping it in there? This is my main fear right now – Kevin, Sam and Dean are acting like the information is complete, when there is almost certainly something vital left out. Something that would be way more disastrous than some under-cooked ground chuck.

Final Thoughts: A thrilling, emotional ride. Best episode of the season so far. Looking forward to the next one with equal parts eagerness and dread. But not the dread of “Oh, what are the writers going to put me through now?” More like the dread of “Are my guys going to make it out of this thing alive?” I’m invested. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Chicken Soup for My Soul

Time to bust out the champagne! A member of my writing group has just been accepted for publication in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Chicken Soup: Inspiration for the Writer’s Soul, as a matter of fact. Our whole group is full-to-bursting with pride, and as we clinked our plastic cups full of sparkling grape juice (hey, we were in a public library), I realized this would be a good time to say a few words about the Chicken Soup franchise, and the opportunities it provides for writers.

For those of you who don’t know, Chicken Soup for the Soul is a series of inspirational books. Each book features roughly a hundred true stories that center on a specific theme. The theme might be cats, dogs, mother-daughter relationships, parents of autistic children, brides-to-be, or, in the case of my friend’s recent acceptance, inspiration for writers.

The reason this is such a cool opportunity: Chicken Soup is constantly coming out with new books. Meaning, they’re constantly calling for new material. Meaning, there are lots of chances to get published! Right now, they’re looking for true, inspirational stories on the following topics:

-Devotional Stories for Wives

-Holiday Stories

-Lemons to Lemonade

-Miracles

-Miraculous Messages from Heaven

-Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide

-The Dating Game!

Now, maybe you’re a semi-pro golfer who hates holidays and has never seen a miracle in his life. If so, don’t fret – next month, they might very well be calling for entries to a brand-new book that’s right up your alley, like Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul: Touching Tales from on the Green, or something similar. This would be the perfect chance for you to write about those baby ducks you rescued from the sand trap. Or that time you took Grandpa putting and he really started to open up about his war days. No matter what your passions are, no matter where your life’s journey has taken you, you probably have at least one sweet, heartwarming story inside of you, just waiting for the right opportunity to come out.

Check Chicken Soup’s “Call For Entries” page often, and your chance just might come:

http://www.chickensoup.com/form.asp?cid=possible_books

Best of luck, and keep writing!

-Gretchen

Supernatural Review: Episode 8×13 Everybody Hates Hitler

Review of Episode 8×13: “Everybody Hates Hitler”
by castiello

Overall: Seems we are on a streak – four strong, entertaining episodes in a row. This ep told an interesting story that felt fresh, despite the fact that we took a look back in time. I liked the use of the Golem (this creature was also used on The X-Files, back in the day, so I had fun comparing and contrasting the two versions). We found out more about the Men of Letters, met some scary Nazi Necromancers, discovered a secret organization of Rabbis – which was really freakin’ cool, btw – and added several more actors to the series of talented guest performers we’ve seen recently. So, all in all, I guess you could say I liked the episode. 🙂

Oh, and the title? Hilariously awesome. Not really something I take into account when judging an episode, but still, it had to be said. 🙂

Dean: Gotta love Dean, grooving on those vintage digs! The Men of Letters’ “Bat Cave” is a perfect match for this guy who loves all things old – from his car, to cassette tapes, to that beat-up leather jacket he used to wear all the time. Dean was born about fifty years after his time, and his appreciation for the décor and even the music in the Bat Cave was totally in sync with mine. What can I say, the man has style. 🙂

As for the Cave itself – I pictured the key as something that could actually be used in various spells. A magical object in and of itself. I didn’t realize it was just the key to opening the archive where the knowledge is kept. So, why did that old dude want Sam to just throw the key in and shut the door, then? If only Men of Letters can cross the threshold, why shouldn’t Sam and Dean use the archives to their advantage, as they did in this episode? Hopefully, my understanding will grow in the coming episodes. In the meantime, though, Dean seemed happy at finding such a wonderful place. He certainly wasted no time in making himself at home, even using the shower facilities and putting on, as Sam put it, a “dead guy’s robe.” I can definitely see them establishing a base here, and to be honest, I think that’s something they desperately need.

As for what I need – I need Baby to stop getting smashed up every time she’s on screen! It’s traumatic! And in this ep, Dean’s body was the actual weapon used against her. Talk about adding insult to injury…His response to the Golem was funny, though (was that a girly scream I heard, Dean?) as was his reaction to being thrown across the parking lot (“Ow, my spleen!”).

I actually thought it was pretty cool that Dean knew enough about those poisoned darts to realize that killing the spell-caster would stop the spell. This is not the first time we’ve seen Dean reference/use magic this season, either. He also squished a soul inside his own arm, released the soul later on, and then reanimated Benny’s lifeless (not to mention skin and internal organ-less) body. Where did Dean learn all this advanced magic? Purgatory, maybe? And, more importantly, will this knowledge come in handy in the future? I hope so, because Sorcerer!Dean is pretty darn awesome.

I also like that Dean is hesitant to allow untrained soldiers into the battle. He and Sam have lost more people in their lives than anyone ever should, and they realize just how quickly even the most experienced warriors can fall. So, I get Dean’s trepidation about Aaron taking control of the Golem and joining the fight. That said, both Sam and Dean respected Aaron’s right to make the decision, and I think Aaron – and his pet Golem – may prove to be powerful allies in the future.

Sam: Oh, Sammy, you are my hero – you get hit in the neck with a black-magic dart, and still manage to carry the red ledger to safety. You rock! Next time, though, maybe pull the dart out right away? That would be my first instinct. Maybe he knew Dean needed to actually see what type of dart it was to know what they were dealing with. I could buy that.

In any case, I love that Sam was the one who figured out the book-switch – that kind of clue is right up his alley. I also love how, while Dean was busy soaking up the Bat Cave’s comfort and style, Sam instantly gravitated to the files. All that information, all that history…As I watched both brothers settle into the Men of Letters’ hideout, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had, in some way, finally found their home. It has beautiful old things for Dean to enjoy, it has tons of info for Sammy to organize and update, and it has a wealth of knowledge that both of them could use as hunters. I can see this as their “place.” I can see Sam embracing being a Man of Letters, I can see Dean continuing to be a hunter, and I can see this as the place that unites them. Maybe Sam’s dreams of college are going away for good, replaced by a destiny he was meant for all along – to be a scholar in the world of the supernatural.

As far as Golems go, Sam’s bafflement matched mine – I, too, thought they weren’t supposed to be able to talk. I also thought erasing a letter on the creature’s body was a way to stop him (the scroll thing was even cooler, though). I definitely felt for Aaron, how upset he was that they were trying to find a way to kill his Golem, but I really couldn’t blame Sam and Dean – I mean, something that powerful, in the wrong hands? Bad. Very bad.

Baby: Despite the repeated window-smashings, I can’t deny how nice it is to see her gleaming, silver-black skin on my screen every week. Last year, it made sense with the plotline to put her in storage, but it hurt the show a little. The Metallicar is – and always has been – the third star of Supernatural. Taking away that element was like stripping out the rock music, or not having the witty, pop-culture-reference episode titles. It wasn’t right, and I didn’t realize how much I missed Baby until she finally came back. Hopefully, the show won’t make the same mistake twice – I need the Impala, and so does Dean.

The Golem: Soft-spoken, enormous, and scary-powerful – this guy (along with his wimpy, I-can’t-believe-this-is-all-real human handler) had my attention all episode long. I love that he could talk, I love that he left clay behind after smashing the bookshelf, and I love most of all the emotion he displayed in quieter moments: talking about what the Nazis had done, coming to trust Sam and Dean, expressing gratitude that his master had finally stepped up and taken charge. Wonderful, A+ acting. Wonderful, A+ storyline.

Other Notes: Why didn’t the Nazis use that fire spell against Sam, Dean and Co.? It seemed pretty powerful. I get not using it when Sam was holding the book – the ledger might’ve burned, too – but why not use it later? Speaking of fire, how hilarious was it that Sam and Dean were actually warming their hands over a burning corpse? And poor Aaron’s reaction: “These guys are insane!” Another funny moment: Aaron’s “I thought we had a connection” scene with Dean. So well-played on both sides. Not many people could trick Dean, but that really threw him off the scent!

Final thoughts: Great emotion, great characters, great story. I really like both Aaron and the Golem, and would love to see them back as allies in the future. Would also love to see a lot more of the Bat Cave. Dean can use it at a place to shower in style and pick up new cases – he’s a hunter, born and bred, and he always will be. Sam, OTOH, has always searched for something more. He has felt out of step with the hunting life, and maybe this legacy will give him what he’s been yearning for. This can be a place for both of them: a true home, and a long overdue one, at that.

Flash Fiction Contest and Novel Suspense

Attention Short Story Authors –

Flash Fiction Chronicles, a blog devoted to the art of short-short stories, is having their fifth annual String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest. The basic idea: they give you ten prompt words, and you have until this Saturday (Feb. 9th) to write a very short story (250 words or less) that seamlessly incorporates at least four of the ten words. There is no cost to enter the contest, and the prizes include money, publication, t-shirts, books and other cool stuff. Each author can enter up to two stories. I entered last year, and had a total blast writing my story! It’s a great mental challenge, and a great workout for your author muscles. So, why not give it a shot?

You can find the rules, prompt words, links to past winners and all other relevant info here:

http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/string-of-10-five-flash-fiction-contest-begins-now/

Have fun!

Also, for those who dig writing longer works, I came across this nifty article with tips on how to really crank up the suspense in the first fifty pages of your novel. The author gives clear, easy-to-understand advice, followed by numerous specific examples of how to apply that advice to your book. It’s great stuff, so go check it out:

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-raise-the-stakes-in-your-first-50-pages-of-your-novel

-Gretchen