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