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24 April 2009 @ 10:37 am
Good Lord, I actually survived!  
I've been dreading the Supernatural "Jump The Shark" episode for weeks, ever since the premise came to my attention.

Amazingly, it didn't wind up being the MarySue squickfest that I feared, and I actually liked most of the episode. My quibbles were with characterization, and some technical things, nothing more.

Thank goodness for that mostly-a-reset-button at the end.

I still don't like what all of this says about John's character, and I have trouble believing in it. You all know that I have issues with how John raised the boys, as do most of us. For him to keep another child secret from the boys... I just don't know. I can see him shielding the other boy from the reality of all their lives, but it's very dishonest to Sam and Dean, and that doesn't seem like John.

The "Good-old-Dad" lifestyle he had with Adam... that seems very wrong. I get that Adam was a second chance to be the father he might originally have been (but for Mary's death). But if he could go fishing with Adam and take him to a baseball game, then he could by God have unbent at least a little with Sam and Dean. Moderation wouldn't have killed him, and the boys would have benefitted from it. Given his interaction with Adam, the whole incredible blowup with Sam over college (happening in a parallel timeframe!) doesn't make sense at all.

I just can't reconcile the John we've seen with the choices in this secret life. I know Dean couldn't either, and that was interesting in a dramatic sense, but it also seems false to me. I don't like when canon plays false with the characters.

My other issue was with Sam. The Sam I know would have agreed with Dean, that Adam should remain sheltered once they'd taken care of the thing that killed Adam's mother.

Now again, in a dramatic sense, if Sam agrees with Dean then there's no conflict in this episode. BUT... that's no excuse for doing a 180 on Sam's character. Sam's complaints growing up, and in leaving for college, were legitimate. Even Dean can see that now, to some extent. So to have Sam deny that there was any validity in that, or even in the desire NOT to be dragged across the country constantly and abandoned in motel rooms while John did God knows what... who the f**k is that character? That isn't Sam!

There IS no real justification for how the boys were raised. And now canon just destroyed the old one, which was that "John was distracted by his vengeance and did the best he could." The new version, "John emotionally neglected his sons and exposed them to danger and instability because the three of them were already doomed, but meanwhile he played Sugar Daddy to the Golden Son"... what the hell is that? It doesn't even make sense!

I know we expect too much of the show, those of us invested in the fandom. We expect it to be better than it is, to be more consistent, when it's "only a TV show."

But when fanfic writers go out of their way to avoid the kind of mutated characterization that we see in canon, I can't help thinking that the show and TPTB could try much harder than they're doing. You should not, for the sake of a single entertaining episode, undermine or pervert your own canon. That was the major problem I had with the prior episode—for the sake of crack, the show created The Prophet Chuck and "The Winchester Gospel" and obliterated the fourth wall, and that's just going too far for a throwaway episode.

For this week... I really liked Adam (and even the minor touches like waitress Denise who took such a severe dislike to Dean), and I loved the reveal of the MOTW and how all of that worked. But it wasn't worth the hit to John and Sam's characters. I keep thinking that much of the episode could have been transplanted onto a different setup and worked just as well—the long lost son of some other Hunter John knew, for instance, where John carried out the duty of being the perfect "uncle." THAT could have been worked in such a way that it would still feel like John, though the falseness of Sam's POV here still wouldn't be resolved.

The gore in this episode was over the top for me. We've had implied gore, which I much prefer, but this was much too graphic (especially Sam being bled and poked, and Dean beating a ghoul's head in—TOO MUCH!)

And my other complaint? Those scenes with Dean hunting around in the dark were too poorly-lit to go on as long as they did (much like in "Family Remains"). I realize this kind of thing is a horror-movie staple, but it works differently in a theater where the lights are off and you're surrounded by the screen and sound than it does in your living room, where there's glare coming off the TV and you get only a tiny bit of illumination. It doesn't build suspense so much as it builds frustration, if it goes on too long.

I didn't pay attention to next week's previews, other than Angel In The Backseat. Hey, at least Sam's still riding shotgun, at least ostensibly.

~*~

On another topic, this week's edition of "Things you shouldn't laugh at, but just can't help it" is brought to you by Scrubs: The Grapes Of Wraaaaaaagth.



 
 
 
she said mysteriously: Sammichresounding_echo on April 24th, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
I think the characterization was a little muddled as well. Dean initially and John mostly. However I can see the argument for John approaching this child as he did. Adam was 12 when John first learned of his existence. What seems odd to me is that if John really DID want to shelter Adam, he would have stayed well away from him.

I mentioned to Smidge that perhaps John acted so OOC was because he was finally given a venue to live out his fantasy life, the one he had before Mary's death. Almost as if he regressed and was playing house. If his psychology was such that he couldn't handle negotiating these two lives (hence the temporary regression and indulgence in an escapism) then to me it makes sense that he would still respond negatively to Sammy's striving for independence. My thought is that John raised Mary's boys to live a certain way, and expected them to follow his command. Adam was also living the life John chose for him. The difference between Adam's normalcy and Sam's striving for normalcy is that the former follows John's wishes and the latter does not.

More to the point, I think this contradiction was intentional. We don't understand the John that Adam is describing and neither do the boys.

I actually think Sam is pretty spot on in this ep. Granted, if this ep would have taken place in the first or even second season, Sam would have acted the exact opposite. I think over the past two seasons, and really, starting in season two, Sam has given up the dream (delusion) of ever living a normal life. I think a lot happened to solidfy this once Dean was in hell. Sam, already down this road, had only Ruby's encouragement, demon blood in his veins, and a past that repeatedly proved to him that normal was never meant to be his.

And, as I mentioned in my journal, I think Sam also had an edge of juvenile, cruel jealousy. He presents hunting as a right to Adam, as something that Adam has the right to choose, as Sam never did. However it quickly becomes apparent that Sam is trying to force this life on Adam, and subsequently deny Adam the life he has previously known. As if Sam is dealing with his anger by punishing his character foil, who he could have been, who also happens to be younger and weaker than Sam. It may not be the actions of the original Sammy we all fell in love with, but I think it's very much in keeping with the Sammy that's been developing for seasons now.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on April 24th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
What seems odd to me is that if John really DID want to shelter Adam, he would have stayed well away from him.
Yes-- in case he drew anything to the boy's "scent," so to speak.

My thought is that John raised Mary's boys to live a certain way, and expected them to follow his command. Adam was also living the life John chose for him. The difference between Adam's normalcy and Sam's striving for normalcy is that the former follows John's wishes and the latter does not.
Now THIS, sadly, is an argument that makes sense to me. The man was awfully controlling, and simply thwarting his control (even if he applied it different in the two situations) does seem like the kind of thing that would anger him.

I think over the past two seasons, and really, starting in season two, Sam has given up the dream (delusion) of ever living a normal life. I think a lot happened to solidfy this once Dean was in hell. Sam, already down this road, had only Ruby's encouragement, demon blood in his veins, and a past that repeatedly proved to him that normal was never meant to be his.
He's definitely changed, but I can't really agree with you here. It would be different if Sam's issues with John had been petty, but they weren't. He had real, legimitate beefs with the man, and moreoever he was right. It makes no sense to me that he'd throw over a lifetime of beliefs even if he's been burned badly several times over since coming back into the family life. All of those complaints he once had... he should still have. They were real, and they were valid.
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on April 24th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
but if I've got my maths right, John met Adam more or less in the immediate aftermath of Sam leaving - the ultimate slap in the face of "your method of parenting sucks" and this other son's been safe so far, no sign that the demon's after him, so maybe it's natural that he'd look to Adam as a second chance.
I'm glad you pointed out the timing of that. I can see this argument to a certain extent, but not entirely. If John could manage to be different for Adam, then what the Hell stopped him from picking up the phone or dropping by in four years to tell Sam that he'd reconsidered the whole "don't come back" approach to things?

It's why I tend to dislike messing with back-canon (including when the show does it). There are so many aspects you have to consider! It has a rippling effect.

but with a strong seasoning of the season one, acting out, slightly childishly selfish Sam who was so angry with his father.
The childishness makes a certain sense. I couldn't stop thinking that he was endangering Adam (even by offering him a gun), and that the best plan would have been to pack Adam back off to college far away while Sam and Dean hunted down and killed the thing that wanted him so badly. Turns out, of course, that Adam wouldn't have left, but stilll- that's what the boys should have done.

not to mention that his big brother role model has a big wodge of "hunting is great, *rah cheer* knives and guns"
This DID represent a huge opportunity to rub that in Dean's face, and it turns out that over the years Dean appears to have reconsidered the wisdom of all that. :0

Thanks for adding your thoughts here! I always enjoy a good, thoughtful discussion. :)
(no subject) - erinrua on April 25th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - erinrua on April 25th, 2009 03:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 05:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - erinrua on April 25th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blackcat333_99 on April 25th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - erinrua on April 26th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
Deadbeat Nymph: sammy nosedeadbeat_nymph on April 24th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
I was thinking all the same things that you were while watching, right down to the 'this is too dark, I can't tell what's going on!'

I do think that some of the comments above have merit, but the problem, I guess for me, is that even if these problematic things work, I still don't like them. I mean, even if it can be argued successfully - and I do see how it can - that this is where Sam's character is now in terms of development, I still don't like or support that development. It stings! And I'm not even a Sam!girl!

I would like to add that, regardless of how it fit into canon, the discover of Nice Daddy John via the secret golden son gave Jensen a fantastic acting opportunity, and in my opinion, he freaking nailed it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on April 24th, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC)
I mean, even if it can be argued successfully - and I do see how it can - that this is where Sam's character is now in terms of development, I still don't like or support that development. It stings! And I'm not even a Sam!girl!

Yes! I don't want Sam to become someone who has given up on logic or himself, nor do I want him to be of the death-death-death mindset or the kind of guy who would willingly use an innocent brother as bait. That last part... whether it's spite or pragmatism, THAT ISN'T SAM to me. The Sam in "Metamorphosis" who still questions whether a monster is really a monster... that is and always will be Sam to me. Last night's Sam is someone I don't even recognize, and I frankly don't want to know him. :(

I would like to add that, regardless of how it fit into canon, the discover of Nice Daddy John via the secret golden son gave Jensen a fantastic acting opportunity, and in my opinion, he freaking nailed it.
I agree-- so silent, several times over, but so hurt. And how could Dean ever be otherwise? *sniffle*
blackcat333_99blackcat333_99 on April 24th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
Regarding the Sam's characterization stuff, I had some thoughts on that and how it ties into the question of "monster", seeking revenge theme, and plain old bad parenting by one John Winchester if you're interested. Too long for a comment, so here's the link: http://blackcat333-99.livejournal.com/119047.html#cutid1
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link-- SO much to think about with the ideas you brought up. I especially liked your Sam/monster parallels, and the final outcome of the different parenting methods John chose. You drew from a lot of what we've seen over time, and tied it together really well. ♥
ErinRua: Fiat Luxerinrua on April 25th, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)
Some John and Sam thoughts ...
Awww, sweetie! I'm sorry this episode left such a sour taste in your mouth. *hugs and hands chocolate fudge brownie* I can see how it would be that way for you.

I guess, for me, I looked from a slightly different angle. If I recall right, John didn't learn about the kid until he was 12, which (Someone, now I can't find who!) estimated was about 2003. By then, Sam was already gone to Stanford, the blowup with John was bitter history, Dean was doing his own hunts, and John was ... possibly wrestling with regrets.

Thus, to be hit at a time like this - one son estranged, the other growing into an independent hunter - with the news of another son would seem to hit a very vulnerable nerve. So there was no "meanwhile," at all.

Therefore, it's not hard for me to imagine John trying, (albeit erratically and randomly,) to somehow make amends and do right by this kid, which includes preserving his innocense and shielding him from all aspects of the hunters' life. John won't tell Sam - they're not talking - and he probably figured he'd tell Dean someday when it became a "need to know." Anywho, that's my take on it. ;-)

Per Sam ... again, I found his behavior less OOC than simply a revelation I've been looking for. Sam was already turning harder, changing, willing himself to be different back in S3, with his assertions: "this is war," trying to be more badass like Dean, and all that. Therefore I didn't perceive it as Sam denying his complaints were valid then, so much as he now operates from a position in which those complaints no longer apply now.

We had a hint of that when Sam refused to go say goodbye to that lady doctor, in the siren episode. What's the point? he asked, and Dean made a quip about Sam becoming a love-'em-and-leave-'em type. We've watched Sam all this season becoming harder, more remote, less empathetic, while Dean has several times been seen to play the soft touch. Role reversal.

I have felt all this season that Sam has been very deliberately hardening and callusing himself for this war, because facing Armageddon doesn't leave much room for wishy-washiness. I think Sam is honestly resigned to dying in this fight, that the events of "Criss Angel" and "After School Special" were the last straw in convincing him that he's stuck. There is no way out. There is no happy ending for Sam Winchester. That's why he's resigned himself to the rift between him and Dean: he thinks the only way he can balance the scales is by dying in combat, going down swinging, dying for a good cause.

Which ... is terribly sad, I think, because it means he *has* consigned the old Sam to the grave. Anywho, them's my thoughts! I know you may not be able to see the same way, and that's cool. *HUGS*

Edited at 2009-04-25 01:10 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
Re: Some John and Sam thoughts ...
Actually, despite how much I went on about the characterization effects (because I really didn't like those), I still liked much of this episode and it didn't BEGIN to bring me down the way the "Winchester Gospel" or "Sam's grieving, but let's talk about Ruby" episodes did. Those really hacked me off. This one had some annoyances, mainly the subverting of John and Sam.

You make a good case for why John never told Sam (probably meant to "get around to it someday"), though he should have told Dean. And I can understand his regrets leading to different choices with Adam (as they should have!) But the first thing it should have led him to do was to backtrack on his ultimatum with Sam (we covered that above). There's no excuse for him not doing that, other than one that would make him despicable. :(

Therefore I didn't perceive it as Sam denying his complaints were valid then, so much as he now operates from a position in which those complaints no longer apply now.
I can see him believing that now, on the advent of the Apocalypse-- that part works for me. But him telling Dean that Dad was right all along? Not at all. Their father WASN'T right-- not about Sam, not about what he put those boys through. Teaching them to defend themselves is one thing. Bringing them to the darkness again and again to let it kill their souls long before their bodies... absolutely not. And nothing will ever make right John's choice to abandonon his boys in motel rooms for days on end. That ENdangers them, while he's off doing something that, while important, SHOULD NOT matter more to him than his own children's well-being.

Sam would be an idiot to renounce his earlier stance on things like that, and I don't like seeing him painted as an idiot. :(

But the rest of what you say, I agree with completely. Again, I don't disagree about his feelings regarding the present-- I think he IS as resigned as you say, and it's terribly sad but also understandable. But the past? Was exactly the way he remembered it.

Just a slightly defter touch in the episode's writing would have eliminated that, too.

Thanks for braving the waters, as you so often do! I really appreciate it, and your thoughtful discussions as well. :)
Re: Some John and Sam thoughts ... - erinrua on April 25th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Some John and Sam thoughts ... - halfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Some John and Sam thoughts ... - erinrua on April 25th, 2009 05:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
Maerhys: √ aftershocksmaerhys on April 25th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
Drive-by to co-sign, I agree with you all the way.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 02:54 am (UTC)
It was a very entertaining episode, but I want to be to enjoy that without feeling like people are screwing up canon and/or the characters. Fanfic writers manage it-- why can't the show do the same?
(no subject) - maerhys on April 25th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 05:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
mercurybard on April 25th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
I missed the first 10 minutes, so by the time I got to it, they had already gotten passed the John-is-Adam's-father drama.

...and I assumed that all Adam knew about John was a name and an emergency phone number. Like his mom said "in case something happens to me--especially if it's weird and unexplicable--call your sperm donor".

But that John actually played father with this kid? Oh, hell no.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Johnhalfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 02:58 am (UTC)
But that John actually played father with this kid? Oh, hell no.

That's the part that got problematic. On the one hand, I can't see John abandoning his responsibility to that other son. But to give him all the happiness he denied his own sons? If he realized his mistakes, there were two other boys he owed a hell of a lot of explaining to. One of them was still being "disowned," and the other was still waiting for even the slightest crumb of validation or approval.

Grrrr. That either makes this new "version" of John OOC, or it means that he was a complete, unrepentant asshole (and we've seen signs that he was not). :/
mercurybard on April 25th, 2009 03:36 am (UTC)
On the one hand, I can't see John abandoning his responsibility to that other son
I guess I assumed Kate (was that her name?) was smart enough to *not* tell John, "hey, kid, yours" since she seems to be tied into the original ghoul infestation (John having GOTW, ha!).

(But I'm also convinced that the dark-haired little snot from "The Kids Are Alright" is Dean's no matter what the mother said.)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on April 25th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - claudiapriscus on April 27th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on April 28th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - claudiapriscus on April 29th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC) (Expand)