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Supernatural 6.05 – Live Free or Twi-Hard


Grade: B

Too Long, Didn’t Read: A welcomed back to form, even if there are a few bumps along the way. And douchebags.

Many readers here don’t watch genre shows. When I say genre in the context of television, I mean a show that has an element of the supernatural, the weird, the sci-fi. These are also not typically the types of shows recognized in prestigious awards shows: True BloodLost, Joan of Arcadia and Heroes have been the only three shows with a tinge of the supernatural that have been even nominated for a primetime Emmy in the past decade. And Lost was the first genre show to win a primetime drama Emmy (the Golden Globes are bit more kind – Lost, The X-Files, and Twin Peaks all have won best television drama).

And what about shows on The CW? Or its predecessors, UPN and The WB? No acting nominations. No directing nominations. 1 writing nomination (Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Hush). No wins. Nothing for Buffy, Felicity, Angel, Veronica Mars, Dawnson’s Creek, EverwoodCharmed

So what does this have to do with Supernatural? Well, the show is a genre show on The CW. It’s now in its 6th season after starting on The WB (it’s the last hold out from the old network currently on The CW’s schedule – America’s Next Top Model is from UPN). Throughout its run, it’s proved to be one of the best shows on television. I don’t say that lightly – I watch a copious amount of the tube. Its last two seasons have been an incredible roller coaster ride, developing its rich mythology, but more importantly developing the relationship between the brothers Sam and Dean. Inject some great (and self-referential) humor, and you have a show that just keeps on giving.

When Eric Kripke first developed the show, he had a three season storyarc in mind. This was then expanded to five seasons. Well what about now? The apocalypse is over. Lucifer is gone. Dean is happy. And Sam… is back? Season six has been a divisive issue for many fans of the series; some feel that the show should have ended without trying to march forward while others are happy that Sam, Dean, Bobby and Cas are back to kick-ass once more.

But beyond last week’s “Weekend at Bobby’s”, the season has been… slow. There have been hints of something greater (Alphas, war in Heaven, Sam) but aspects such as Samuel and the extended family have impeded what people appreciate about Supernatural. Thankfully, Friday’s “Live Free or Twi-Hard” is more of a return to form even if it does present its own set of issues.

“Live Free or Twi-Hard” is all about vampires. You know, the beautiful, brooding, sex-starved vampires that Stephanie Meyers loves to write about. These vampires are not bad-ass draculas. They’re not soul-less killing machines. As Dean wonderfully articulates, “these are douchebags”. The parody of Meyer’s emo-vamps in the cold open is less of a parody and more of a direct rip from the pages: lines and actions of Kristin and Robert (get it?) are that of Bella and Edward (yes, I’ve seen Twilight). The best line is when Kirstin states that “I can make my own decisions… I’m 17!”.  It’s an overt attack on the transformation of vampires from the bad-ass to the repressed sexual frustrations of middle-aged women and off-kilter high school girls. This is culminated in Kirstin returning to Robert’s lair, asking if it is edgy with velvet, only to comment that it smells like pee. She’s then faced with Boris, the exact opposite of Robert. He’s slimy, fat, old and gross. Not exactly a teenage girl’s dream.

Of course this leads Sam and Dean into uncomfortably hilarious situations. And while the humor during the first part of the episode is very well placed, the tone quickly shifts to brutality with a hint of remorse and sadness. There is something wrong with Sam – the audience has known that for a while. And while there are a considerable amount of questions revolving around Sam, this episode doesn’t answer any of them, only confirming how far gone Sam is. To be honest, Sam’s issues are starting to be overdone: Demon blood, Lucifer’s vessel, and now this… Sam hasn’t been truly human, well, ever. And while the show has done an admirable job depicting the fall of Sam, this is the third season where Sam’s fall has been at the centerpiece. Maybe it’s time for a change?

Another aspect of this season that’s bothersome is the retconning. It’s been done before in Supernatural – remember how impossible it was to kill a demon without a colt? Last week, we see that just burning the bones of a demon will kill them. Obviously this would have been great to know back in the day, Bobby. But of course, this was all before we learned that demons were at one point human. And now this week, we learn that vampires can be turned back before they drink? That would have been great to know before they killed that new vampire in “Fresh Blood”. Obviously this development is paramount to the plotline of this episode and gives the hour a unique perspective. It’s frustrating when there are two grievances in back-to-back episode. Though, we’ve come so far into the series that these types of issues should just be shrugged off and not dwelled on, it’s fairly inevitable for this type of show. Kind of like how I can go down to the local BJs and pick up a case of sacred angel oil.

All of these issues aside, Dean realization that something is definitely amiss is brutal and wonderfully played by both Ackles and Padalecki. Their conversation in the final moments is so hard for Dean because he knows for sure that Sam is no longer the person (if he is a person) that he once knew. Even Dean mentions earlier that he doesn’t remember the last time he and Sam had a beer together. They’re living in two different worlds now, the polar opposite of where they were in the pilot.

Another aspect of the show that’s a welcome return is its macabre nature. The episode is dark, and not just in the way that it’s lit. Dean’s transformation is physically demanding not only for him but for the audience. Welcome special effects sell the feral process and create a situation that is as uncomfortable as possible for everyone. And once he’s gotten his teeth, Dean inadvertently solves the vampire situation that has been plaguing popular culture for the past few years – he makes vampires bad-ass again. He comes in, gets what he wants, kicks ass, and does some mild decapitation. These are the vampires we love, the vampires we grew up with. Not Twilight.

There’s a wealth of potential for season six – the Alphas and the war in Heaven are enough to spark interest. It even seems like next week will provide some much needed answers on Sam’s story. Undoubtably, it was going to be a different type of show since the apocalypse has been building since season three. And while “Live Free or Twi-Hard” is most likely never going to be remembered as the best episode of Supernatural, it’s a welcome step in the right direction.

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