Supernatural "Heartache" Review: Just Tear My Heart Out and... Eat It

Supernatural S08E03: “Heartache”

Jensen Ackles’ third turn in the director’s chair brought out the gore when the recipients of a star athlete’s vital organs suddenly developed a taste for hearts. Sam pined for a boring normal life with the sort of willful tunnel vision we haven’t seen since Season 1, which was an annoying trait, even back when it made sense. Dean continued to sulk over Sam not looking for him during his year in Purgatory, but also tossed tons of olive branches into Sam’s side of the Impala and seemed almost manic in his drive to recreate the good old days, but Sam didn’t bite. He misses his ladyfriend and the normal life he never had before... except for those four years at Stanford that I guess we’re just pretending never happened. The scene at the end of the episode with Amelia and Riot was touching and on a weird note, I really liked the background music, but the implication that Sam Winchester has never in his entire life had a birthday cake just didn’t gel with what we know about his past. Tween Dean stole baby bro Christmas presents to make the holiday special, you don’t think he did the same for birthdays? Dearly departed Jess baked cookies in the pilot purely because she missed her boyfriend. I don’t think birthday cake would have been a stretch.

When Jeremy Carver was first recruited as the new showrunner and voiced his intention to cast off some of the show’s heavy mythology and return to the roots of the series, I was concerned, but optimistic. Absolutely, the mythology had grown daunting. Sam and Dean were both broken down by loss and Hell; shadows of their former selves who, admittedly, weren’t a whole heck of a lot of fun to watch at times. However, as unpleasant as their evolution often was, the fact that Sam and Dean ARE fundamentally different individuals than those we were introduced to eight seasons ago speaks volumes of the writing and production staff’s attention to character development and that’s a very good thing. No, watching Dean drink himself stupid week in and week out was not the least bit entertaining and while the Sam and Hallucifer saga was one of the better storylines of Season 7, realistically, it couldn’t go on indefinitely. Supernatural wrote its leads into some very dark places and the decision to move them back toward being functional people is welcome, but my concern with what we are seeing is that, rather than considering all of the character development that has come before and incorporating those experiences into our new and improved Winchesters, Carver has instead simply hit the redo button.

But this isn’t a comic book. You can’t just stop everything and start over when you don’t like the characters you’ve been given to work with.

Sam wants a normal, apple pie life. Dean just wants to drive around and gank monsters with his little brother. Dean doesn’t understand how Sam can turn his back on their born-and-bred duty, the family business and all that. Sam doesn’t understand why Dean doesn’t want to be normal, or at least why Dean won’t let HIM be normal. It’s Season 1 all over again. We’ve DEALT with these issues. Dean gradually came to want the normal life himself and got it during his time with Lisa. Conversely, Sam came to understand and accept his place in life and for awhile, adopted Dean’s dedication and drive to save people and hunt things.

Supernatural "Heartache" Photos

Jeremy Carver has written some of the very best episodes of the entire series, (“A Very Supernatural Christmas” and “Mystery Spot” EASILY make my top ten), and I know that he knows who Dean and Sam Winchester are. So for that reason, despite my grumbling, I remain optimistic... but very cautiously so. I hate Sam’s storyline because it makes zero sense, but on the bright side, for once, Dean’s story is interesting, believable, and awesome. We are dealing with Purgatory with an honesty that was sadly lacking when we “dealt” with Hell. Please, oh please, don’t blow it.

Sam brooded over losing Kevin and remaining away from his dog and woman, but Dean spotted the news report about some jogger literally having his heart ripped from his body and became positively giddy at the idea of a new hunt. It was off to Minneapolis, Minnesota and then Boulder, Colorado as the pieces gradually came together—Brick Holmes, a revered professional football player, was an organ donor who perished in a mysterious car accident the previous year. Recipients of his organs seemed to develop amazing health and athletic prowess, as well as a nasty habit of ripping people’s hearts from their bodies.

It just so happened that Brick Holmes was actually a semi-immortal, millennia-old Mayan warrior who made a deal with a corn god to never grow old or weak. The only catch was that he had to occasionally sacrifice an innocent’s ticker, but things went well for a few hundred years. Brick earned fame and fortune under various aliases, excelling at various sports. Then he met Betsy, got married, and got sad when he realized that while he got to stay young and healthy forever, she was still aging on schedule and would someday make him a widower. He drove his car off of a bridge intending to destroy the body and finally die. The fact that its organs ended up donated was the result of a publicity stunt a few years earlier when famous athletes encouraged others to sign up as organ donors by signing up themselves.

Despite her initial apprehension, Betsy was quick to cooperate with Sam and Dean when confronted with their evidence and a quick trip to the Bunny Hole Strip Club to waste the exotic dancer who received Brick’s heart, put an end to the ritualistic sacrifices. Huzzah.

In contrast to the past two episodes, in which we saw Dean reluctantly pining for the purity of Purgatory and taking top-secret phone calls from vampire BFF Benny, this week we saw a Dean who was clearly trying to enjoy his freedom. He ate donuts and made faces at Sam’s fancy organic apples. He even toned down his ongoing anger over Sam leaving the life to try being nice, straight-up telling Sam that he was happy to be hunting with him again. Dean said that he knew what it felt like to be a warrior and he embraced it. I don’t think we’ve seen him this well-adjusted since at least Season 3.

What say you? I’m sure Dean was sincere about everything he said, but after two episodes full of brooding, flashbacks, and nods toward PTSD-induced disorientation, Dean’s assertiveness that he’s happy, content, and fine seemed forced. Is Dean taking the fake-it-'til-you-make-it approach to coping with Purgatory? How long until it backfires brilliantly?



Case Notes


1. Okay. What’s Amelia’s story? I know, I know we’ll get it eventually, but what are your theories? Are they still together? Did Sam break things off or is he just on a “hunting trip” with his brother? Will she survive the season or become another unfortunate victim of Sam Winchester’s Peen o’ Death?

2. Dean bought an app. I’m so proud. I mean, just a few years ago he was clueless as to what Myspace was.

3. HELLO PAPA ACKLES! Jensen Ackles’ real-life father Alan Ackles played the cop in the beginning of this episode. The last time we saw/heard him was as the news anchor in Season 6’s “Weekend at Bobby’s.”

4. “Personally, I prefer the Keith Richards version.”

5. MaryAnn Whining About Sam’s Storyline Some More: “I just want my time to count for something.” What, going to Hell and stopping the Apocalypse wasn’t good enough for you? (Except that it WAS, and Sam said as much last season during his Zen phase, so there’s really no point in continuing to flog this dead, mummified, and sealed-in-carbonite horse.)

6. I liked the fact that Sam sent their recording of Crazy Arthur’s dead language ramblings to that professor from “The Slice Girls.” The brothers need some new friends and acquaintances since everyone else is dead. I’m holding out for a Sheriff Mills sighting, myself. Who would you like to see visit this season?

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I honestly love Supernatural from season 2 till now and all of its characters..Many people didnt like broken Dean but I love that.. I really feel that all character acted naturally and I could relate to them.. but..now Sams whining about normal life..I cant stand that.. I admire new Dean who finally discoveres beauty in fighting and becames some kind of bad-ass..but Sam.. wants normal boring life..as someone said - he feels his job is meaningless? He fights demons, gods and creatures, his good friend is angel, he talked to God (even he know it), he saw haven and was in hell.. he stopped apocalypse and met Lucifer himself.. so what the fuck does he wants more? Its amazing life. I start to wish him to leave the hunter job and start the real life..you know..like have terrible marriage, really meaningless job where his boss humiliates him every day, no money and always worrying about that, little dirty flat, getting old and weak, get a cancer and dies alone in forty in terrible pain.. maybe after that he would appriciate what he has now
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The standalone episodes haaven't gotten any better over the past few seasons. I hope that we have less standalones and more serialized eps this year.
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Last episode presented some kind of opportunity to completely close off all the bad stuff, yet Sam didn't seem interested in pursuing it, which doesn't make sense if all Sam wants to do is play house with his new lady and dog.
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I hate Sam's storyline because it makes zero sense.



I disagree. I think that Sam always wanted a normal life, but that he stopped believing he could ever have one. Then, after having just barely survived the Lucifer-visions and thinking he has lost everyone he cared about, he stumbled upon something like a 'normal' existence. It's not unrealistic that he would give up hunting. He is tired and completely broken after losing his brother.

Now, with Dean back, he is torn, because he loves his brother & wants to help him, but he also has a desire to continue leading the 'normal' existence that he found. I think he also wants Dean to understand how he feels, but cannot explain it, especially to someone who has just been through a year in purgatory. And that is why I'm really enjoying the slow reveal that we are getting about both Sam & Dean's year apart.



Regarding the comments about him forgetting his 'normal' life with Jess at Stanford, I highly doubt that Sam looks back at those years as 'normal' anymore. He found out that his best friend at college was a demon (who introduced him to Jess). He was surrounded by demons, who were manipulating him, even back then. There is no doubt he loved Jess and he loved his life at college, but his memories of that time have to be tainted. So, from our (the viewers) perspective it was 'normal' but I don't think from Sam's perspective it would be. Hence his comments, 'I found something I've never had before'.
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So I'm thinking the plot line is so ridiculously silly with Sam that there has to be a twist, right? I mean the reaction to the dog or even his new lady... there has to be something behind something behind something. If not I will be very disappointed.
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At this point, I'm hoping that he's possessed or something and wait for this situation to blow over so we could get our Sam back.
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I hate Sam's storyline because it makes zero sense



Right on the money. So glad there is someone out there with the courage to write the truth. We all love the show but all the blogs sucking up the writers for a plot that is leaking water is beyond me.
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There are so many signs that all is not as it seems with Sam. Look at his body language while he's waiting to find out if the dog is going to live or die. He's practically vibrating his way out of that chair. Look at his panic last night while he searched for Amelia, the overall sadness and exhaustion in his face as he looks out the car window at the end. This is not the look of someone who just took a year off for 'me' time. It's the look of someone who has lost what he loves most, Dean, one too many times and knows he just can't do it again.



He's not chasing after normal, he's chasing after feeling safe. I think in his heart of hearts he believes that the only way he might survive is to pull so far away from Dean that nothing can touch him any more. Losing Dean to Purgatory broke him. Losing Dean finally to a violent, bloody death? Will completely destroy him.



And, yeah, Dean is acting a little like an ass right now. But, it's not because he's suddenly become one. Dean has a huge heart. But it would have just gotten him killed in Purgatory. The only way he made it through was to become the purest version of himself he could become. He had to submerge his humanity to make it through a landscape where there was none. Dean couldn't hide his true self that deeply and then just magically turn it back on again now that he's topside. He's going to have to find the catalyst to let him reach it again and I think that, ultimately, it will be his and Sam finding their way back to one another.



They both are showing such classic signs of PTSD, just on opposite ends of the spectrum. The only way that things will get better is time for them both to heal. For them to do that they're going to have to do that thing that is so against ever fiber of being a Winchester; talk!
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I agree. I admit this stand alone ep was not one of my favorites, and I don't like the Amelia character (at least from her intro, she seemed more like a manipulative b**ch to me) but as for how Sam and Dean are both reacting following Dean's year in Purgotory, I'm with you 100%. Just because one may not like the character does not mean that the whole storyline surrounding that character is pointless. Yes, I also admit that it seems weird that Sam never got a birthday cake in his life (I think Dean would never go that far, as much as he loves his brother, but Jess would have, most certainly), but I also think that this time with Amelia IS Sam's idea of a normal life. I think it was another reviewer named Clarissa who suggested that Sam was still a kid, practically fresh out of high school when he was with Jess, whereas now he is more mature, and seeing things from an adult perspective. This makes a lot of sense (I am a lot more mature at 28 than I was at 22 or 23).



I also like your comment about chasing after feeling safe. I'm under the impression that Sam's relationship with Amelia is over, and we are only witnessing the flashbacks of it (hence the hunting without any form of contact between the two). Anyway, thi
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"so there's really no point in continuing to flog this dead, mummified, and sealed-in-carbonite horse." LOL!!! that really says it all. What else could I add?

Some episodes develop the main story arch. Others are often byways of the grand highway that is the season's main theme, in which case they at least are funny ones or full of wisecracking dialogue. This episode was neither. Supernatural is a beloved show, but frankly at this point in life I'm as tired as Sam showed to be. I'll just pretend this episode never happened.
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So far, I don't like Amelia. I prefer Jess over her even though she's dead.
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The way she told Sam to "Sit! Eat!" sounded like she was talking to Riot. I get it was supposed to be warm and informal but these two lack chemistry at a fatal level.
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I pretty much agree with everything you said here. From worrying that Dean's trying too hard to pretend he's fine, all the way to wondering why all of the groundwork toward maturing Sam just got jettisoned. I also remain optimistic about JC and I hope he doesn't blow the Purgatory stuff. I loved the flashbacks and how they're handling PTSD with subtlety but also somewhat realistically. But the Sam stuff is hard to swallow for all the reasons you outlined and it's not welcome. Why can't they ever get these boys on the same page and leave them there. They don't always have to be acting like strangers to be interesting--as a matter of fact, I DON'T find that interesting at all. Brotherly squabbles is one thing--but this complete lack of warmth is disturbing.
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I want to take Jeremy Carver aside and be like, "When we said we wanted to take the show back to its roots, we meant the brotherly love, not Sam in college and Dean being bitter about it!"



I'm trying to stay positive about Sam's story because Dean's is so awesome and I really do love most of JC's work here and on Being Human. I'm holding out hope that once we get the whole story, there will be some big Aha! moment that suddenly makes it make sense. But for now, I'm suspending A LOT of disbelief.
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I agree with much of what you've said about the boy's story-lines and I too am really sick of this whole Sam thing...it's been done, and I can't stand Amelia at all. However, I really think that they're going somewhere with Sam ...it just can't be as it appears....something else is at play here.. I think Carver's got something up his sleeve. Perhaps I remain overly optimistic.
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sam wanting a normal life ??? " Dream On sammy "
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I like that the guys are being honest with each other about what they want ragarding hunting. I get that Sam wanted a normal life and wanted to quit hunting but I can't get over the fact that he didn't TRY to look for Dean when he went missing and that he didn't even seem to care or be happy when Dean came back.
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Yet another reason I believe that somethings awry with Sam and this whole new-old attitude.
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Exactly! It just doesn't make sense. I could buy him going all "Mystery Spot" for a few months and then reluctantly admitting defeat and settling down, but to just walk away without even trying? Even if he assumed Dean was dead, why not call up an angel and get confirmation that he's in Heaven or something?
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I think he couldn't because there weren't a lot of angels left.
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About the birthday cake issue, I thought it was extremely obvious that Amelia was responding with a joke to Sam's "what's this?" by saying "what? you've never seen a birthday cake before?" It's a fairly non-serious common reply if someone asks such a question and does not at all imply that Sam has for real never had a birthday cake before. Even her tone of voice was not serious.
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I agree! So many people are reading so much into this, but I think Sam was just surprised because it's been so long since anyone has done something like that for him - and the last time it probably was Jess when he was at Stanford. So much has happened to him since his 'normal life' at Stanford including (in the last year alone) his near death due to the Lucifer visions, the death of Bobby & what he thought was the death of Dean. So it's not unrealistic that he would act surprised (and god forbid) happy when someone does something nice for him.



It would be a very different situation if it was Sam that had said 'I haven't ever had a birthday cake'. But that's not what happened.



I really like the way the season is going and the slow reveal of what happened for both Sam & Dean in their year apart. I'm sure there is more going on with Sam's story than has been revealed so far and if we are patient it will be revealed. For example, who was watching the house when he left Amelia?
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Plus, it's not like his birthday is usually a happy day in his life - at least not in the last few years. I'd be more surprised if Sam was actually expecting somebody to recognize and celebrate his birthday instead of what we were given.
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You asked who I'd like see visit this season. There is a loose end that hasn't been wrapped up since Season 4. Remember the half-demon child, Jesse. It seems that he is like a loose cannon with great powers who can devastate heaven. I would like to see him back now that he has a few years on him and see which side he has chosen to represent. He would be easier to deal with if he chose to be an ally of the Winchesters. They could really use one of those about now. Apparently he has the power to smit angels and would be too overwhelming as an villain.



As for this week's episode, I'm easy. I'm just grateful to watch any episode because I see it all as good.
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Yeah, I want to see him again. He seemed like he could be a powerful ally to the Winchesters if he chose to side with them. And it could be a nice introduction to a new plotline involving cambions.
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Sam is such a girl his character arc this season is the result of his biological clock ticking.
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Wait, I forgot, people like comments that are positive. Let me try again.

I'm really glad for Sam that he decided to settle down before his last egg dried up.
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Didn't like this episode at all, to much whining on sams side and dean being to pushy about it all, alltho i understand that dean wants his brother in arms back by his side, we all do:) But during all three episodes this season i keep getting the feeling this is the last season and they are sort of finishing up, which i really don't like.. I also miss the fantastic on liners and bickering back and forth that always had me laughing out loud every episode.. So all in all not loving it so far, but been a fan from the beginning and i know how they can turn this around, so here is hoping for the best :D
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Lame episode. Writer's block again I supposed. Hope it doesn't last. Kinda weird considering if one has experienced God, The Devil, Arch Angels and the Apocalypse, been to Hell & Purgatory and then some, one would have had a really different approach to the last days on Earth. So all these irrelevant sub plots leading to insignificant nothing is beyond me. We need to bring Castiel and Crowley back SOON!
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Fairly basic and pretty boring.

I agree that I'm not buying this plot involving Sam. As for why Sam is the way he is, I blame the birthday cake more than Amelia. I've seen birthday cakes turn the meanest people into softies. And by softies, I don't just mean fat.
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think we all just want to know where is Kevin,what happened to Cas and all that stuff,right? :D



episode was somewhat decent,but also a bit boring at times
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First and foremost. An Iphone language app? Really? Whose bright freaking idea was that? We don't have Bobby so lets go with Babel. That was the dumbest thing of this show, ever.



Questions.



Amelia my guess is just normal. I would rather not have her buy it. I would actually like to see Dean go all Single White Male on her because she is taking Sam from him and thus is evil. I think that would be better than any other rehashed thing that could happen to her.



2. So stupid

3. Cool

4. Odd reference considering if my memory serves they have never used a Rolling Stones song in all of their rock songs. Even Season 5 episode one which was titled Sympathy for The Devil. Maybe that is there way of asking.

5. Sam is tired of it all. He has had more of the normal life that Dean. And he liked it where Dean was uncomfortable with it. He wants it. How many times does he have to save and or endanger the world.

6.They need a new Bobby.



I still think it is all leading to a showdown between the brothers.
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Since I'm still bitter about not getting a proper showdown in season 5, I'm totally okay with that.
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I mean is has to be heading that way right? Seriously, if this show ends without them having it out; I will very disappointed.
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Dean acted out of character in seasons 6 & 7, and now Sam is in season 8.



The common denominator: Both times the other brother disappeared, and the remaining one found a girl, and fell in love. Sam went to the cage, and Dean fell for Orange Lisa. Dean went to Purgatory, and Sam falls for Amelia Earhart.



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Lol! Orange Lisa...
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but Dean already "had" Lisa from before. we met her in season 3
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Yeah, and Dean didn't really 'fall' for her, he was trying to fit into a life he thought he would/should like. He was in 'deep caring' with Orange Lisa. Sam, on the other hand, is 'in love' with Amelia AND life with her.
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I agree. I'm not at all interested in listening to Sam whining about wanting the simple life. I would at least get it if his complaint was that now that he has saved the world on numerous occasions he wants to retire and hand the reigns over to some new hunters with disastrous luck, but this whinging about wanting his life to mean something is just stupid. The man literally stopped the apocalypse from occurring. How much more meaning does he need for his life?
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Exactly! EXACTLY!
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I think Sam wants to do what really counts, which is to be an online writer!
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Oh wow...oh wow, if this actually happened...I'm picturing the face Dean would make, and its GLORIOUS.
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Haha, livin' the dream, yo.
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I think he's sick of Dean!
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How is that possible? No one can get sick of him! It's Dean!
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I'm terribly perplexed about the both of them. Sam was happy with his former life. Why ditch Amelia at all then, even before finding out that Dean was alive? (Episode 1; Sam's first appearance.)

While Dean on the other hand.... I do understand Purgatory might have been only a teeny less than hell. But like he'd claimed, it'd 'made him feel more real'. It does make sense that he's right off to hunting and genuinely liking it. To me, at least. It doesn't seem forced.



I just didn't, however, get the catch about how episode two ends, with Dean's memory of Cas yelling his name; which strikes AS he reads the part about 'people he doesn't need anymore end up dead' in Kevin's letter. What was all that about? He almost seemed his normal self in this episode. Episode 2 however hints on to something entirely different; something new we could anticipate in Dean. Which really does excite me. Sam's plot line, though, is seemingly more vain and interrupting that.

Also....I wish they'd show us more of Cas :/
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I want to get to the bottom of Cas too. I don't mind building up to it, but I get annoyed when something is a Big Deal for two episodes in a row, like Cas' fate, and then we just drop it for an episode because why not?



Dean was definitely angsting over whatever happened to Cas at the end of last week's ep and whatever part he may have played in it, which is why I thought his behavior this week was such a 180. It's like he's overcompensating for wronging Castiel by obsessing over Sam.
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This is the crux of my issues with last night's episode... where did all of Dean's flashbacks/PTSD go? Just like, WHOOSH. And ok, denial is a legitimate coping mechanism, but honestly it felt kind of like season 1 again. Which, as you pointed out, they are totally NOT those guys anymore.

I'm kind of DYING to know what the deal with Cas is. To be honest, Bobby and Cas are my favorite characters on the show, so unless there is a LOT of flashback to Purgatory, I may not last the season with the boys with both of those characters gone.

I'm a bit of a sucker for the mythology stuff, though I'm totally game to have that stuff only hovering over the more episodic monster-hunting. Last night just kind of felt very "been there, done that" to me.
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My theme for this season, so far, which I can't claim as my own because it was actually awesomely coined by one of my lovely commenters is "RESPECT THE EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE." The show goes through phases of handling consequences either well or poorly. Sam mourning Jess was good but Dean coming back from Hell was a lost opportunity. Sam and his Hell was good for a while, but I still really hate the way it was resolved. For the first few episodes, Dean and Purgatory were being handled awesomely so I'm really hoping this episode was either a fluke OR Dean indulging in denial that will be addressed later because I hate when Show ruins the good things it creates.
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You hit the nail right on the head with this one "Sam pined for a boring normal life with the sort of willful tunnel vision we haven't seen since Season 1, which was an annoying trait, even back when it made sense. Dean continued to sulk over Sam not looking for him during his year in Purgatory, but also tossed tons of olive branches into Sam's side of the Impala and seemed almost manic in his drive to recreate the good old days, but Sam didn't bite. He misses his ladyfriend and the normal life he never had before... except for those four years at Stanford that I guess we're just pretending never happened. "



PLEASE writers can we not destroy the Sam Winchester character?



Despite a lackluster script, Jensen did a great job directing in my opinion.
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He did! I feel bad because I didn't really like the episode he directed last season either, but it had nothing to do with his directing. I just didn't think it was well written.
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Jensen just needs more good material to work with like he had in Season 6's "Weekend At Bobbys". Man that was a great ep...
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Weekend at Bobby's was such a fantastic episode.



BALLS!
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I looooove "Weekend at Bobby's."
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This was a shit episode. A *boring* monster of the week story with no connection to anything else (other than the lame "Sam wants a normal life" arc), and no interesting characters other than Sam and Dean. I think I'm finally ready to drop this show.
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And no remarkable villain either, since the guy was dead the whole time. And not the fun kind of dead.
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I'm not liking how they're portraying Sam this season. I mean come on, "I've never had that" life line was bull. He was in college and with Jess for FOUR YEARS! That means he's had it. I definitely agree that Dean's storyline is more realistic considering his situation. That's the problem with some shows that go on too long, it seems the writers forget who and what they're writing, and what they've written before, so they rehash old stuff or forget the development they've made in the past. I still don't see how Sam just let Dean go and tried to move on, I mean, it wasn't Dean's choice to get pulled into purgatory, and Sam got back pretty quick (soulless, but still). I get the wanting a normal life, I think Dean's wanted it too, and his gungho attitude is likely due to being in purgatory, but still, we've been through this constantly. How about a little something new or this series needs to conclude this season before all this that's happened before will happen again.
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Very good points!!
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