Supernatural: The Future is Standalone

I've made no secret of the type of Supernatural episodes I favor, especially in recent seasons. The tales of Sam and Dean that open and close within an episode have been strong since the end of Season 5, when Eric Kripke's grand arc concluded. The longer serialized stories of Seasons 6 and 7 have centered on Sam and Dean vs. Satan, and the standalone episodes have showed that when Supernatural operates as an anthology, it rarely gets old or boring.

"The Mentalists" was such an episode, and threw Sam and Dean on a murder investigation in a town full of psychics, both of the honest and charlatan varieties. Such a situation is the mother lode for Supernatural's wit and goofiness, and new Supernatural writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (creators of LA's horror stage show "Thrilling Adventure Hour") took to the task like they've been on staff forever. "The Mentalists" was a solid debut for the duo.

Things started with Dean on his own after last episode's breakup with Sam. But the Winchesters are gluttons for solving murders, and inevitably their paths would cross again. The Bens got this out of the way very early on, with a random encounter between the brothers in a new-age diner. It was little convenient, and Sam, after scolding Dean last week and storming off, rolled over fairly easily and agreed to rejoin The Hardy Boys. It took some sting out of their split, but this is Supernatural, and you knew the boys couldn't stay apart for too long.

They found each other in town because they were both tracking suspicious murders in the town of Lily Dale, the most psychic town in the United States. It was such a fun premise that I wondered why the show hadn't used it already. But it came with a twist: The psychics who were being murdered actually had legit premonitions of their deaths before they expired.

After seeing security footage of a female ghost threatening a local psychic, the brothers identified the woman as one of the two sisters who founded the town, and she was rumored to actually have the skills she advertised. Her sister, however, did not. Sam and Dean did what they do best, which is to say they dug up graves and exhumed bodies, set the bones of the psychic sister on fire, and voila! Case closed!

Except the psychic who had the vision of death still died, because Sam and Dean couldn't be bothered to stick around town for a few more hours to see if the premonition happened as envisioned. Pretty sloppy hunting, guys! It turned out the sister whose bones they burned was trying to warn victims that they were about to be killed, and it was the other, phoney sister who was actually the murder-y ghost. Ooops! Then things got Scooby-Doo-y and we learned that the owner of a local curiosities store was in cahoots with the legit sister to take out the fakes in town, because the shop owner actually had powers but couldn't get a job because people were scared of real psychic stuff. And he would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling Winchesters!

The most amusing part of the episode was watching Sam and Dean, who have first-hand experience in all things paranormal, dismissing all the psychics as hacks and cons. But something legitimagely ghostly was happening in the town of Lily Dale, and putting this very real supernatural murder mystery against a town full of people faking it made everyone a suspect. Who actually had the skills to summon a bloodthirsty ghost and who was just doing their best impression of The Mentalist's Patrick Jane, Psych's Shawn Spencer, or Miss Cleo? Lots of the townspeople pegged Sam and Dean for who they were, whether they were using real hoodoo or simply reading Sam and Dean's body language like Crossing Over's John Edward. Heck, one even pulled a spooky statement from the departed Ellen out of the air, imploring Dean to talk it out with Sam. By doing this, the show acknowledged that while most of the psychics were fake, there may actually be something to the people wearing headscarves, hoop earrings, and too much eye makeup. It was a great way to connect Supernatural's universe to the real world.

I'd like to touch on what I mentioned before and get some feedback. This season, I've found myself anticipating the standalone episodes more than the serialized ones. The only reason I can think of for this is that the longer story just isn't working they way it should be. By contrast, the standalone episodes don't need to account for anything except for Supernatural's unique tone, which combines humor, gore, and mystery. I've been feeling this way since last season, but I think I'm only willing to admit it now. Anyone else feeling that way?


Notes
– More slash fiction with a good crack on the brothers' potential "alternative" lifestyle.

– This was a fantastic Dean episode. He was on fire for the whole hour, whether he was telling the waiter that an "affirmation" would lead to a punch in the face or cracking wise about winning the Powerball while snooping around a rigged fortune teller's table. For his part, Sam was a bit of a rain cloud, but that's understandable considering how pissed he is at Dean.

– Could Dean's cute psychic friend be his new Lisa? They seemed to hit it off.

– There were some cool deaths this week, particularly in the cold open. A Ouija board piece in the throat? Loved it. Death by being slammed down on forks? Sure, why not?



Supernatural Season 7 Power Rankings
Like I said, the Leviathan storyline isn't the strongest, so the fun standalone episodes are rising to the top. "The Mentalists" did a great job capturing Supernatural's entertaining combination of humor and blood.

1. "Shut Up, Dr. Phil" (Episode 5)
A pair of witches needed some couples counseling in a gory fun-fest that guest-starred Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters.

2. "The Mentalists" (Episode 7)
More standalone fun as the brothers investigated murders in a town full of psychics.

3. "Meet the New Boss" (Episode 1)
Castiel got all righteous on those who didn't respect The Good Word, and it was great.

4. "Slash Fiction" (Episode 6)
Two Leviathans disguised themselves as Sam and Dean and took off on a cross-country shootin' spree!

5. "Hell, Cruel World" (Episode 2)
The Leviathans set up a buffet at a hospital after spreading into the water supply.

6. "The Girl Next Door" (Episode 3)
Via flashback, we saw Sam's first kiss... with a monster! Then Dean killed her.

7. "Defending Your Life" (Episode 4)
Dean went on trial before Osiris because of the guilt he carries. Jo came back to blow him up!



Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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Nov 17, 2011
Also, I would disagree with the rankings a little bit, but that is only because I really enjoyed 'Slash Fiction'. I guess I am just a sucker for Dean belting out tunes while driving:)
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Nov 17, 2011
This standalone episode was very well done. The new writers ('The Bens') did an excellent job of creating this standalone episode as well as keeping the characters true to themselves. However, I would have like it to be a little more 'quippy'.... but that may be just because I have been spoiled by episodes from Ben Edlund. Also the duo of Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin (Yellow Fever penned by them is probably one of my favorite episodes)!



When it comes to the serialized episodes, still entertaining, but none have hit the high mark like the old serialized episodes prior to season six. I am hoping they will get better, but as long as Supernatural keeps pumping out these awesome standalone episodes I will be tuning in.
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Nov 13, 2011
I have one big "issue" with the whole sideplot of Dean killing Sam's old "girlfriend" for "leaving bodies on the ground".

A few episodes later, they run into seriously powerful witches killing people left and right just 'cause they're having marital problems - and after failing to put them down the first time, they accept "we're friends again now" as a guarantee for good behaviour and leave them to it.

OK, so Mr. Witch actually saves them from one of the "Old Ones", but Amy saved Sam from her mother.

I'm not saying they SHOULDN'T let the pair of witches go, I'm just saying I find it a bit off-putting that they make such a show of Dean's "she's a monster, she's killed before, she'll kill again" in one case and then let the "bad guys" go without hesitation two episodes later. It lacks consistency.

Or does it only work that way if the monster of the week is too powerful to put down easily? :(
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Nov 11, 2011
I like Wilfred's owner's friend's sister as the new Lisa (you know what I mean dammit!) For one, she's not orange.... but realistically, I don't see her returning any time in the near future (maybe they'll save for the series end).

Also, I actually really like the Leviathans. I hope I'm not the only one.
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Nov 10, 2011
I'm actually finding this season of Supernatural to be it's absolute weakest. Does this sound familiar... Sam and Dean split up and go their separate ways because they cannot agree how to best handle hunting. So, we get a bunch of moody dialogue and pouty stares while knowing they will find their way back to one another because they always do. Much of the plot is really beginning to feel like recycled material and I'm hanging on to this series by a thread (something I never thought I'd say about Supernatural). Must we always pit the brothers against one another at some point. Conflict is fine, but this endless need for separation is becoming a bit unbelievable. You've died and been to hell and back and you're going to cry about your brother killing a monster you haven't seen in YEARS! Put your big boy pants on!
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Nov 11, 2011
Gotta disagree with ya there.... This season has already been 100x better than the last. Though I'll concede, Castiel is irreplaceable and it upsets me to no end that he's gone for good.
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Nov 10, 2011
Want the Impala back!
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Nov 10, 2011
While I really like the standalone episodes in this season so far, I think what makes Supernatural strong are the arches and so far, the season 7 arch has felt a bit uninspired for my taste. I thought that Sam losing his mind over his visions of the Devil made quite an interesting setting, but all of a sudden Sam claims, that he is over the whole thing and totally sane again (even though, I'm not all sure, that it's going to last), while Dean is losing it ... Don't get me wrong, I'm still totally in love with the show, but something's missing at the moment ...
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Nov 10, 2011
Great episode, I really enjoyed it!
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Nov 09, 2011
The show sort of ended at the 5th season finale! I know everybody's going to hate me for saying this but...it would have made a great series finale. Not that i don't continue to watch though..
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Nov 09, 2011
what happened to the Monte Carlo? a Charger? WTF!
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Nov 09, 2011
am with u on that, i cant quite get on board with the Leviathan plot..



Cant wait for the next episode..Season 7, time for a wedding indeed!!..
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Nov 09, 2011
#1 of the season. I LOVED it!!
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Nov 09, 2011
No, the Mentalist wasn't filmed at the real Lily Dale.
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Nov 09, 2011
Loved the episode,probably the best of the season if u ask me,like u said it had a combination of humor and blood which spn knows how to do very well and i hate the whole leviathans storyline so am glad they didnt even mention it in this episode.I miss Castiel tho....
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Nov 09, 2011
Loved the episode,probably the best of the season if u ask me,like u said it had a combination of humor and blood which spn knows how to do very well and i hate the whole leviathans storyline so am glad they didnt even mention it in this episode.I miss Castiel tho....
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Nov 09, 2011
LMAO!!! Tim, you missed out or decided not to even mention that Lily Dale(NY) is one of the epicenters of mediums. I was watching and wondering if it was shot on location and whether or not they used any of the local talent??
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Nov 09, 2011
This "Mentalist" episode was great.. Definitly creepy like on the first seasons.. classic SPN happen here and i love it.
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Nov 08, 2011
While I love the standalones, I think without an overarching mythology the show might become too light, lack substance. The apocalypse was always going to be a hard act to follow. The funny thing is, it turns out Kripke didn't actually have a five-year plan (Jared spilled the beans at Nerd HQ.) Kripke only told the network he had a five-year plan in the hopes this would motivate them to renew the show for a couple more years when he was afraid it might get canceled. (I always thought it was strange he only came up with the angel idea at the beginning of season 4 if he supposedly had a five-year plan.) Then of course it became a self-fulfilling prophecy as he never expected they would get a season 6 so he wrapped it up in 5. So while the season 6 and 7 mytharcs aren't and can't be as epic as the apocalypse, I have nonetheless found them interesting, and they have given us great characters like Balthazar and Crowley as the King of Hell and Alpha!Vamp, and great moments like Levi!Sam and Levi!Dean going on a crime spree, and reason to keep Cas around after the end of the angel-demon war (for season 6 anyway, and Sera said he will be back again), and so on. While the standalones are usually the most fun to watch, the mythology episodes hold the show together, tie it all to a bigger picture. I personally really like the pacing between the two. Just when I need something with more depth, I get a serious mytharc episode, and just when I need something more lighthearted, I get a more comic standalone.
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Nov 08, 2011
I LOVE THE LEVIATHANS!!! They pour hot cheese on their victims and keep bodies in the trunk for roadtrip snacks and quote Pulp Fiction! They give sass when they are tied up and being tortured! They are smart and sneaky and ruthless and they hunt the hunters! And they are something so old they are completely new, humans have never confronted them before, and it is so interesting to see the hunters have to start from scratch, because no other hunter has ever hunted them before. My three very favorite episodes this season had Leviathans in them: 701, 702 and 706. They are such a fun and completely new monster!
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Nov 08, 2011
While I like the way the mytharcs give the show scope and depth, when it comes down to individual episodes I have always enjoyed the standalones a little more because they tend to be more fun, and I love Supernatural's quirky and twisted comedy. However, I have to say I got a big thrill out of the two first mythology episodes this season. They were a real rollercoaster ride and I was hanging on to the edge of my seat. With Slash Fiction and the Mentalists, the first two eps are my favorites this season.
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Nov 08, 2011
The standalones of Supernatural make the show what it is. Serialized episodes worked very well up to season 5, but then the story just became a mess of half finished possibilities. I like it that they are going back to what they know and do so well and hey, if in that they find some killer serialized storyline - go for it. I'm enjoying the standalones far more, and that is something I wouldn't say quickly about any other show.
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Nov 08, 2011
I've preferred the stand-alone episodes since the start. This season it seems the show has gone back to the format used in the first season which made the show work. Too many shows today have got caught up in episodic storytelling and it doesn't work well for all shows. It helps to have some background to the characters, but when that background takes over it often makes the show dull.

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Nov 08, 2011
I've always been a fan of mixing stand alone and serialized and am currently happy that Supernatural have done more stand alone episodes than earlier this season. That said I also enjoy a good serialized show. But as others have pointed out this season's villain just ain't up to par. One thing that has always annoyed me with these kinds of shows is that each new villain has to be tougher and bader than the previous. When the heroes constantly beat each villain the suspense is lost.

This is why the first five seasons was so good. It had a long arc of a escalating "war" between good and evil. The Leviathan's seems like they were pulled out of someone's arse just because they needed a big bad villain. They're just not believable. They're on the edge of looking like fools. They never seem like a threat. Sure they're "immortal" but the only question going into this season was how long would it take the Winchesters to figure out how to kill 'em.

And that is why so far this season I'm far more enjoying the stand alone episodes than the serialized ones. Except for Dr Phil.. I thought that was horrible and barely watch able..
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Nov 08, 2011
Supernatural has always been one of my favorite shows, but the episodes that I watch over and over again are the stand-alones.



I enjoyed this week's episode...Dean's humor was brought to the surface and Sam's whining was at a minimum. Because, let's face it...Sam is a child! "Woe is me, my life sucks, everything's about me, I think I'll have a temper tantrum and storm off into the sunset!"



Don't get me wrong, I love the serial episodes as well, but I do enjoy the self-contained story lines that I know I will watch again and again.
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Nov 08, 2011
The Mentalist was a great episode! Definitly old style supernatural and I loved it.

I have no clue why you put Shut Up, Dr. Phil on the first place though.. I thought the acting by Charisma Carpenter was horrible (I usually like her) and the whole story was definitly sub-par.
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Nov 08, 2011
:D Psych how the heck i didn't noticed , he acted so different :D
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Nov 08, 2011
Another good moment of the show was Dean smackin Sam for his attitude. And I'm glad it took a while (in the show timeline) before Sam relented and agreed Dean was right. I don't think they're all honky dory, but it's something. And the bit with Ellen sending the "I'll kick your ass" threat from the beyond? Priceless!
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Nov 08, 2011
I honestly kinda zoned out halfway through the episode... The beginning was awesome and the ending was full of good soapy drama but the middle sagged a bit and was unable to hold my attention. I was excited to see Gary Jones in the opening, though. He was my favorite background character on Stargate: SG-1 and it was great to see him on TV again. For a standalone salt n' burn episode, from what I saw, it was one of the better episodes of the season. But after seven seasons, it was nothing new or exciting. I guess I'm just longing for the days when Supernatural was actually scary and gory. Somewhere, the tone became a lot lighter and I wish they'd go back to horny virgins eating each other and creepy kids living in walls. You can never go wrong with creepy kids... Even the preview looked like it might have some thrilling potential, before the rug was thrown out from beneath our feet by Sam's weird wedding. Not that I don't love a good funny episode but it's starting to detract from the core essence of the show, the writers lobbing these 'comedy' episodes at us. After the painful "The French Mistake", I all but gave up on the writers presenting fans with meaty, plot driven arcs and standalones, as they seemed more concerned with demolishing the fourth wall and catering to the fringier of the show's fanbase. With the much loathed "hellatus" approaching, I'm craving a decent mid-season cliffhanger, to make up for what has been a very uneven season. Here's hoping...
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Nov 09, 2011
I have to agree. I like ALL sorts of eps, but NOT "funny" Supernatural. Standalone need not mean ha-ha-time. In the earlier seasons, Supernatural's humour came naturally and lightened tense situations, like nervous laughter after a good scare - and it was Jensen's charisma - not so much his acting - that carried the bulk of the humour, kept it real, kept it cool, and didn't make it seem as if he was "doing comedy". Season 6, and now 7 - the 'funny' is too loud, too obvious, too self-deprecating, too focused on fandom in-jokes rather than a snarky situational line here and there delivered with unmatchable elan that made you laugh, and not *cringe* like nowadays. The "lines" now sound like "lines", loaded with far-fetched, nerd-level pop culture references, not something anyone would say naturally. As for obvious comedy, the counselling scene of Dr. Phil wasn't funny, it was borderline buffoonery, and Jensen barely managed to pull it off - or maybe not - while Jared failed completely, not to mention Charisma Carpenter hammed it down to seriously unwatchable levels - which basically talks about poor writing / directing since none of these actors are amateurs and can competently execute whatever role is given to them. A rare funny scene was the Levithan-Sam-&-Dean bitching about the real Sam & Dean in the cafe - that made you grin WITHOUT holding seven years of loyalty against your throat.



So, cutting the blah, what I'm saying is, nowadays it feels like the show is trying too hard to be cool. You can't do that, either you ARE cool, or not. Supernatural DEFINED cool in its early seasons, it has two of the most charismatic leads on TV, it has a super cast of guest stars, it doesn't need lame comedy dragging all that down the drain. It needs to focus on storytelling and not gimmickry. Long arcs or standalone doesn't matter.



And that girl they tried to 'click' with Dean, oh dear. Every moment was deeply awkward, 'we're acting like we have chemistry' awkward. It felt tacked on, as if to only prove that despite all that slash talk and threats of 'affirmation' from gay and/or new-age guys, Dean is still a macho hetero dude, y'all! This show definitely needs a lady or two, but they need to ROCK it even if the appear occasionally. Like Meg, Tessa, Bela - I'm not even getting to 'big roles' - by SPN standards - like Jo or Lisa or even Ruby. The viewer should think 'whoa' - not 'uh-oh'.
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Uma
Nov 08, 2011
I agree with some of the other posters that Supernatural has lost something this season. It was a bad idea for the writers to be constantly killing characters off. I don't love this season hopefully it gets better before it ends.
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Nov 08, 2011
Supernatural was my favorite show since it debuted, I got all the books and merchandise, etc. That said, I agree that it just doesn't have it anymore and hasn't for awhile now. The constant embrace of "torture porn", the same tired worrying about if Sam is ok, the refusal to ever really branch out beyond the standard formula (except for the episode featuring Bobby and Rufus), the lack of any additional characters (that they don't kill off within a season)... it's just going in circles. The Vampire Diaries has become my favorite show now, and really knows how to have a large set of characters, flesh out a world, and juggle numerous plots at once. Every 10 episodes on TVD would be drawn out to a full season on SPN (with lots of filler eps in the middle). Now even Teen Wolf has surpassed Supernatural in my eyes. I'm actually hoping next season will be SPN's last, just so it can have a fitting finale before it really slides downhill any more.



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Nov 09, 2011
Absolutely. Supernatural is scared of taking real risks now. The WORST thing they can have Dean do - after ALLLLLLL THIS, is, err, drink alcohol - which he has been doing since S01E01? Even Alaric is more realistically unhinged by the events of six months than Dean is by the events of six years, including a trip to hell. How about a freakout that leaves everyone stunned? BTW, where IS everyone?! Oh right, dead. No problem, we're a supernatural show, so bring them back in style, like TVD did in the ghost world episode - where Kelly Hu as Anna's mom set the screen on fire and made everyone with a heart actually WEEP in a 20 second appearance WITHOUT any dialogue - unlike Dean/Jo who wasted an entire episode blathering about nothing and getting nowhere in the least saddening goodbye ever. It's heartbreaking that so little is coming through Supernatural nowadays despite so much MORE talking!
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Nov 08, 2011
I'm in the same boat. I've loved this show for years and I will continue to watch but it isn't as fresh and interesting as it used to be. I'm not excited to watch it like I used to be now I watch it on DVR whenever I get the chance because it has become stagnant its story-telling. Sad, sad, sad.
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Nov 08, 2011
Disappointed about the brother's alternative lifestyle jab at them was only in the notes, that pretty much made the episode for me :)
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Nov 08, 2011
I prefer series that are more serialized, but it was still an enjoyable episode. The current arc does lack the flare of the past seasons, but then again it is hard to raise the stakes after the apocalypse. The Leviathans do have some qualities that should be the makings of a great villain, but they lack the impact that the other villains had. Since their shape changes so often, it is hard to see how many there are and who the main bad guy is. I think the little girl Leviathan was the creepiest, but then she became a doctor and now I have no idea.
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Nov 08, 2011
An alright episode, but I do prefer the serialized ones
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Nov 08, 2011
Serialized all the way...I'm growing tired of standalones and am feeling very antsy. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode - it was much better than the previews made it seem. And I adored Sam and Dean's make-up talk at the end...and Dean mentioning Cas with his trust issues -sniff sniff-
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Nov 08, 2011
I agree that lately, standalone episodes are much stronger than long-arc episodes, specially in the last couple of seasons. However, for me the best episode so far was the doppelgangers', and that's a long-arc ep.

Loved The Mentalists though, a solid second for me in season 7 rankings.
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Nov 08, 2011
Tim Surette said "And he would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling Winchesters!"



Best part of the whole article! I did enjoy the rest, but this was superb. ;)
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Nov 08, 2011
I actually thought this episode was one of the season's weakest. The ghost wanting to talk should have been a major clue, but neither Sam nor Dean picked up on it. After six years of doing this, you'd think Sam and Dean would learn to stop jumping to conclusions about supernatural murders.



I was also particularly annoyed that Dean decided to set up his salt circle RIGHT NEXT TO THE LIVING ROOM WINDOW, especially when he knows that the ghosts can just open the window and blow the circle away. Which is of course, what happens.
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Nov 08, 2011
Totally agree with you. Actually the Leviathans were a great disappointment, why Cas said they are so strong? They are black material, hard to kill, that eat people! Nothing they haven't faced before! So, like I said, gotta agree with you: standalone episodes are the future!!
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Nov 08, 2011
Nice review. Completely agree... but I'm sure the story will go a little further, they have another season in hands I think...?!
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Nov 08, 2011
The brothers hadn't left town before Camille died. They were driving back from the cemetery, when Melanie called them.
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Nov 08, 2011
Again. Dude, really. The premonition was not rteal. it was given to them. By definition it was not a premonition. Quit i tell ya. you suck
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Nov 08, 2011
Wow. Nitpick much? He said premonition, BFD
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Nov 08, 2011
not a nit pick. he gets so many facts wrong in every review. he sucks, we know it. he should quit
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Nov 08, 2011
the last episode was classic supernatural it was great and i feel the same way you do dude.
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