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It's quite remarkable how things that were merely baffling the first time around are now deeply annoying in light of how the season eventually played out. It's senseless for Sam to be lecturing Dean about turning into their father considering he's supposed to be soullessly indifferent to everything. Lisa in this episode was the world's most understanding girlfriend, kindly telling Dean that she knows he wants to be with his brother, while later in the season she'll tell Dean that as soon as she saw Sam, she knew they were over. Then she'll immediately join a dating service, apparently hoping to hook up with some schmo as quickly as possible in order to forget "the best year" of her life.

The Campbells once again fare the poorest, because we know that all the attitude and swagger they displayed in these early episodes, especially towards Dean, was foreshadowing absolutely nothing. The attention that was lavished on these Campbell scenes is all the more striking when you reflect upon how unimportant they would all turn out to be. I don't want to hear anyone from the show claim that Season 6 all went according to some plan, because it's crystal clear that the Campbells were being set up for something big that never happened. It's also clear that the writers, or some of them at least, really loved the idea of this secret hunter's compound in the sticks, and probably sat around talking about how cool it would look onscreen. However, taking a second look at this compound (which appears to be quite the permanent, well-outfitted installation) all you can really think about is why the Winchesters never ran across any Campbells during their 20+ years in the life.

One thing I did miss on the first viewing was the wildly provocative look that cousin Clark Campbell gives Dean when he shows up at the aforementioned compound. It's a look that can only be interpreted as, Mmm-mm-mmm, I'll bet you're just peaches and cream with your clothes off. What say I take you out back behind this tin bunker and we find out for sure? Then we can find out if it's true what they say about how there's nothin' like family.

The look makes no sense within the context of the scene, but it actually makes perfect sense because of course that, or some version thereof, is what everyone thinks when they look at Dean. Cousin Clark is just such a poorly socialized half-savage that he can't help having it written all over his face.

In retrospect, cousin Clark was not at all unattractive for a hillbilly militia troglodyte, and this could have been a nice slashy setup if the general knuckle-dragging doucheyness of the Campbell clan didn't make any such scenario a total turnoff.

The episode ended with that great reveal of the Impala, which was just about the only thing they got right this season. A few weeks ago, Doctor Who did an episode called "The Doctor's Wife" where the TARDIS was incarnated as a woman who was the only possible mate for the Doctor. I seem to recall ages ago reading about a fanfic where the Impala somehow took on female form and was, of course, the only possible mate for Dean. Maybe I'm imagining that, but it sounds awfully familiar. At any rate, she is considerably more interesting than any of Dean's other ladyfriends to date.

Date: 2011-06-04 04:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] muffaletta.livejournal.com
Dude, I'm still trying to figure out why "family slows you down" roboSam suddenly decided that things were just better with Dean around and gosh darn it, he wanted rusty Dean hunting with him. Did roboSam go on a mood stabilizing medication? Get some ECT therapy, courtesy of Grandpa Shady? Look at Dean and have visons of peaches and cream? What exactly? The reason Sam went to get Dean should have been a really important plot point; in the spirit of "noir", there should have been some ulterior motive. Instead, we got an apparently sincere schmoop spouting sociopath (heh, try saying that 3 times fast.)

The closer you look at it, the more obvious it is that this season was just one big old hot mess. For every one plot thread that ended up making sense by the finale, there are a dozen that just fell apart and/or were left flapping in the wind. Some of them actually had some potential, although I suspect that, to get those, we would have paid the price with some really painful other storylines that, as it stands, were probably also cut short ( like how Sam's super special soul would have most likely ended up being the super special key needed to save the whole galaxy. Because, seriously, when has Sam not been the super special key to the mytharc?)

As much as Kripke's slash and burn approach to this season annoys me , with all that the wasted potential, I shudder to think about Sera's original vision alternative.

Date: 2011-06-04 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oselle.livejournal.com
The reason Sam went to get Dean should have been a really important plot point; in the spirit of "noir", there should have been some ulterior motive.

It's really amazing how they made no effort to explain this. I mean none at all! I think it was suggested at one point that Sam acted under Grampa's orders but given the way all of the Campbells reacted to Dean in the first couple of episodes, it's obvious that none of them thought he was any good at hunting so why would it have been a priority to bring him back on board?

Of course, they were also all over the place with what Sam's "soullessness" really meant. They tried to tell us that he had no emotions but he clearly did -- it was more like he was just a sociopath who was only looking out for himself. I guess you could fanwank that he had some residual "Sam" inside him that missed Dean, and then sociopathic Sam went and got him without any thought to how that would affect Dean because of course, sociopaths only ever think about their own needs. Or you could say that sociopathic Sam just knew that Dean was a good hunter and wanted him back as a partner for that reason alone. I think the show suggested that soulless Sam knew there was something wrong with him, and hoped that having Dean around would set him right (which really contradicts the whole "emotionless killing machine" thing). No matter what theory you go with, it's clear that the show just had to get Dean back into the story, and so they used Sam to make it happen and then just left it there.

I shudder to think about Sera's original vision alternative.

I can't even imagine there was a definite "vision." I think she just had a whole bunch of loose concepts that she thought were really cool, and she threw them all in the mix and waited for them to gel into a great story. They didn't.

Date: 2011-06-04 03:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlycurls.livejournal.com
"The reason Sam went to get Dean should have been a really important plot point; in the spirit of "noir", there should have been some ulterior motive."

This was one of the weakest elements in a season brimming with weaknesses. At the VERY least, I expected an explanation for why Sam reunited with Dean. It made no sense in the context of the story they were trying to tell ("soulless" Sam, whatever) so I kept waiting for the real reason to be disclosed. It never was because they never had a reason for it aside from needing the brothers together in order for the Show to work. "Emotionless" Sam should have moved on without a second thought and never even considered his brother again, but that wasn't a writing option so instead we had "Sam returns to Dean for unknown reasons."

Such wasted potential, too. It would have been fun if Sam had reunited with Dean because he needed Dean's soul, or was planning to sacrifice him, or had made some sort of deal, or or or -- but no. Nothing.

Date: 2011-06-04 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oselle.livejournal.com
You know, now that I think about it, if Sam had really had a hidden motive, and manipulated Dean into a situation that was not what it seemed, that would have been a classic noir story pattern. It may very well be that this was what Gamble had in mind when she was talking about "noir" -- but she blew it all to hell with the soulless angle, because it reduced Sam to a zombie who basically couldn't have any motives, hidden or otherwise.

It would have been fun if Sam had reunited with Dean because he needed Dean's soul, or was planning to sacrifice him, or had made some sort of deal, or or or -- but no.

They always dance around the idea of making Sam "dark" and then they get scared and run away from it. Sometimes they even wind up making it look like Sam is somehow better or stronger for his flirtation with the dark side. It's one of the things that makes the show in general, and Sam in particular, seem so wishy-washy.

Date: 2011-06-04 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlycurls.livejournal.com
"You know, now that I think about it, if Sam had really had a hidden motive, and manipulated Dean into a situation that was not what it seemed, that would have been a classic noir story pattern."

Yes, yes. I was SURE that they were going to give him a strong and compelling reason because of all Sera's blather about this season being "noir" and surely she wouldn't promise that and then give us nothing? Heh. I suspect that they originally had a plan for Sam and considered taking him in a darker direction but then chickened out like they always do. They're happy to write Sam "dark-lite" in order to appease the actor but have to pull back before going all-in because:

"They always dance around the idea of making Sam "dark" and then they get scared and run away from it."

Having Sam go really and actually dark would work for an end-game plan but so long as they're churning out more seasons, they have to keep him around. It's interesting what the writers considering "irredeemable" actions for their dark-lite Sam to take. Apparently having soulless (and therefore not even responsible) Sam flat-out using his brother would be going too far, but murdering random women? No problem. Literally stabbing Cas in the back with every intention of killing the person who dragged him out of The Cage? No problem there either.

But back to the promises of "noir" -- considering how little Sera turned out to know about the genre and how poor what she did know was executed, I fear what she's going to present as "Western." I'm really, really hoping that someone steps in and stops her.

Date: 2011-06-04 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oselle.livejournal.com
Having Sam go really and actually dark would work for an end-game plan but so long as they're churning out more seasons, they have to keep him around.

You know what? Sam going dark -- really dark -- would be incredible, but only if they were willing to commit to it and really work at it. They couldn't pull it off if they kept up their usual "is he or isn't he?" shit for a whole year, nor could they do it if they left themselves the escape route of making it all someone else's fault.

It wouldn't even have to be an endgame. What's more compelling than a fall from grace and redemption arc? I think they're afraid of alienating the audience, but if they did it right, people would love the character more than ever. Of course, it would take a lot of really hard work, and part of that would be admitting that Sam had fallen from grace so that he could actually have a redemption, not some "clean slate" bullshit. From what I've seen, they will never, ever go there. I don't know if they're lazy or if they genuinely lack the talent or if it's some combination of factors, but they just don't seem to have it in them.

Apparently having soulless (and therefore not even responsible) Sam flat-out using his brother would be going too far

They had no problem with making him use his brother in the vampire episode, but so what? It didn't mean anything because that wasn't even Sam.

But back to the promises of "noir" -- considering how little Sera turned out to know about the genre and how poor what she did know was executed, I fear what she's going to present as "Western." I'm really, really hoping that someone steps in and stops her.

I think Gamble is the sort of writer who gets a few images in her head and mistakes it for a story. We all know a little about noir -- she probably knew just enough to pick out a few superficial elements that she thought would create a "noirish feel" but she made almost no attempt to write an actual story based on that "feel."

The same thing is going to happen this year. She talks about "cowboy, outlaw spirit," but all the spirit in the world doesn't mean shit if there's no story to go with it.

I sometimes think Gamble's talents would be better suited to a format like music videos, where all you have to do is produce three or four minutes of style without even needing a story. Then again, she's not that effective at style either -- if she was going for a "noir" look and feel this year, she didn't even achieve that. Naming a motel "Nite Owl" (like the infamous coffee shop in LA Confidential) really isn't enough.

Date: 2011-06-05 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] twirlycurls.livejournal.com
I think that after so many fakeouts, it's too late for Sam to go really, actually dark. I know that if they even hint at "Sammy's goin' darkside" again next season, I am OUT. I only have so much patience for this repetitive nonsense but I agree with you that had they done it for real during one of their fake-outs, it could have been great. That's actually what I thought was happening at the start of S6, but oh no. Silly me. It was just another entry in the long, long series of "Sammy goes evil but it's totally not his fault."

"They had no problem with making him use his brother in the vampire episode, but so what?"

I was hoping there would be consequences for that, because even if just a tiny bit of soulless Sam was real Sam, that should have meant something. It should have led somewhere. But... no, of course not.

And do you remember the series of images Dean saw while vamped? I thought we'd be returning to those, that they meant something... but oh no. Of course not.

"I sometimes think Gamble's talents would be better suited to a format like music videos, where all you have to do is produce three or four minutes of style without even needing a story."

Commercials, maybe. The sort produced for Internet embedding. The only way I see any hope for S7 is if she isn't writing it.

Date: 2011-06-05 10:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oselle.livejournal.com
I think that after so many fakeouts, it's too late for Sam to go really, actually dark.

You're right, of course. I should have put that sentence in past tense, not "it would be incredible," but "it would have been incredible."

What's interesting is that now they have a chance with Castiel to give "going dark" the right treatment (although I don't really consider what happened to Castiel as genuinely going "dark.") However, they're not going to devote S7 to saving Cas. Given what's been hinted at regarding how much Misha is signed up for in S7, I think they're going to permanently dispatch Castiel one way or another. Since I consider Castiel one of the few bright spots of the past few seasons, I'm not really looking forward to this development.

And do you remember the series of images Dean saw while vamped?

I recall that he did see an image of the Alpha vampire which foreshadowed his character, but that seemed to be the only part of that sequence that mattered. The rest of it was just more imagery in lieu of story.

Commercials, maybe. The sort produced for Internet embedding.

I was going to say she could do commercials, but even internet clips require some level of storytelling, or at least, the delivery of a coherent message. Music videos would let Gamble play with all the different themes she wanted (noir! cowboys!) in a three-minute format that doesn't have to be anything more than a series of loosely connected (or even completely disjointed) images. Michael Bay started out in music videos, and even though Jerry Bruckheimer insisted on turning him into a director, all of his awful movies are little more than long-form videos that are heavy on mood lighting, babes and explosions, and real light on story and character.

The only way I see any hope for S7 is if she isn't writing it.

Then abandon all hope, because she's not only writing it, she's in charge. I'm sure she'll be in charge with a lot more oversight than she had in S6, but she's still in the driver's seat.

Date: 2011-06-04 08:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kinkthatwinked.livejournal.com
I was reading your take on Clark’s expression just as that scene aired in my location. I thought he was relishing the notion that the legendary Dean Winchester was so soft now, hunched protectively over a baby like he’s the mother, Clark could easily beat him in a fight. I might have more fun if I look for the slashy subtext. :) Then again, I happen to believe some guys who go around spoiling for a fight are just desperate to put their hands on another man in a way that won’t get them labeled as fags, so maybe we’re both onto something.

The first time I saw the Campbell’s ‘nest’ or whatever it is, the first thing I thought of was the Harvelles’ Roadhouse and how Kripke ultimately came to hate it. One idea I took from the early seasons is that hunters are commonly loners. They don’t mesh with mainstream society at all, and don’t even necessarily get along that well with each other. Even the guys at the Roadhouse weren’t exactly buying each other beers, bragging loudly about their latest kills. What made the Winchesters so unique, so damned good as to be legendary was how they operated as a team both on and off the job, leaning on each other in nearly every way possible. If the idea of other hunters truly bonding - even having a place to bond - was so terrible that they burned the Roadhouse to the ground, why show us a gang of hunters apparently gellin’ well enough to live together?

Hell, between the Roadhouse and the Campbell group, the Roadhouse actually made more sense: this secret network of hunters having at least a few locations where they can put their shotguns down and talk about their latest salt-n-burn without frightening the people at the next table. It’s like gay bars, a place where you know you’re in the presence of like-minded people. And what do a bunch of guys with nothing else in common do when they all need to relax? Go out for a few drinks. The Campbells, on the other hand, made me wonder how they even existed under the same roof, blood-related or not.

Date: 2011-06-04 01:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oselle.livejournal.com
I thought he was relishing the notion that the legendary Dean Winchester was so soft now, hunched protectively over a baby like he’s the mother, Clark could easily beat him in a fight.

Of course, you're probably right. One of the more objectionable things about the Campbells was the way they all had this smirking scorn towards Dean. I still can't understand why they wrote it that way. First of all, it's hard to believe that Dean really was "legendary" with this crew because they seem to have been so off the radar all these years that it's hard to believe they even knew anything about Dean before Sam started hunting with them. Second, the combative "I can take this guy" reaction to someone who could be a real ally only serves to make Clark (and the rest of them) look like complete assholes, not skilled fighters. If that was the goal, then the writers certainly succeeded.

I happen to believe some guys who go around spoiling for a fight are just desperate to put their hands on another man in a way that won’t get them labeled as fags, so maybe we’re both onto something.

I'm only half-joking about Clark's suggestive look because well, Dean is delicious, but also, the Campbells seemed like such backward inbreds that it's not hard to imagine them nailing each other in that compound just to pass the time. Rewatching this episode, I found the Campbells more than annoying (the way I did at first), I found them and their whole setup positively grotesque.

I never got the same vibe off the Roadhouse. Like you said, that actually made some sense -- even though hunters are essentially loners, you can imagine them having these underground waystations where they could relax and regroup (though I'll admit that some of the Roadhouse's background visuals -- like all those guys constantly cleaning their guns -- were kind of silly).

If the idea of other hunters truly bonding - even having a place to bond - was so terrible that they burned the Roadhouse to the ground, why show us a gang of hunters apparently gellin’ well enough to live together?

The Roadhouse could have continued to exist and could have served the same role as Bobby's house -- just a place for the boys to go now and then. It didn't have to be a permanent part of the story every week. But I think Kripke felt that giving the Winchesters two "safehouses" was crowding the landscape, and I do agree with that to some extent. That's probably just one of the reasons why the Campbells were so quickly wiped out -- which in retrospect, is pretty funny since they were supposed to have been such a legendary and centuries-old clan of hunters.

Date: 2011-06-05 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dodger-sister.livejournal.com
Of all the Campbells, Clark was the only one I didn't outright despise. I see now it is because we shared a mutual desire to undress Dean Winchester and take him out back - not necessarily in that order.

Also, I would date the Impala, even if it were still in car form. ;)

Date: 2011-06-05 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oselle.livejournal.com
I think the reason Clark seemed less objectionable than the others is because he didn't talk much. He still acted like he was related to The Benders more than The Campbells. I still don't understand why they were depicted so repulsively.

The Impala continues to be the one character that they keep getting right.

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