The Super Sleepy Dispatch
Recap and Review: Supernatural 10:13 “Halt and Catch Fire”
By P.S. Griffin
Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder knocked it out of the park with “Ask Jeeves”; somehow they turned a promotional tie-in to the SupernaturalClue game into a solid, canon friendly, and hilarious episode. Their current outing, “Halt and Catch Fire” falls short in many respects.
The writing for Dean is ridiculous even if you factor in his penchant for palming the technogeek stuff off on Sam by feigning to be a luddite. Likewise the rampant eating and oogling of the female form felt extremely out of character, even after we saw Dean continuing to stuff his face in “The Things We Left Behind” in lieu of feeding the Mark. In the latter the compulsive eating was adeptly framed as a metaphor for the Mark of Cain’s bloodlust and violent urges. In this episode it was played for comedy with Dean assuming the role of buffoon and reprobate. Me not likey.
For me the strongest aspect of the episode was the old school vibe and re-emergence of classic ghost lore, both of which have been sorely missed. Sadly I didn’t find the story to be particularly compelling or the clunky dark mirrors to Dean especially insightful.
They have already established through subtext that Dean needs the love and support of family to withstand the Mark’s siren call. Hell, wasn’t this the main point behind Cain’s Colette last season (“First Born”)? Yes. Momma’s getting anxious for some mytharc action and tired of Dean’s story being played out in brotherly angst, alcoholism, gluttony and subtext. Mamma’s really getting tired of the weak writing on these endless monster of the week episodes. I need real consequences, real horror, actual mytharc. Bring it on!
So… the episode opens with two drunk teens driving in the middle of nowhere. The set-up is out of an urban legend, however this is no lady in white or highway spectre.
The teens decide that they need greasy grub to complement the booze. The Doomed Dude asks his smartphone for the nearest local taco joint. The phone is of the talking variety.
They continue to drive in the middle of nowhere with the phone’s female persona dictating the shots. Tipsy Chick is cold and we see the telltale signs of a haunting as both passengers’ breaths become visible. Doomed Dude says that the air conditioning isn’t on.
Tipsy Chick tells Doomed Dude that the phone is giving them bad directions. He doesn’t believe her until they reach a boarded up and abandoned bridge. At this point the phone orders Tipsy Chick out of the car, referring to her by name. When she doesn’t immediately comply the phone screams at her, in a demonic voice circa The Amityville Horror, to get out of the car. She does so in short order.
Doomed Dude has finally realized that there is something very wrong with his phone; he tries to exit but the doors mysteriously lock, and then the truck drives itself off of the bridge and into oblivion. Doomed Dude’s phone has a good grasp of horror tropes and a great sense of humor, intoning “Destination Dead Ahead!” before the truck accelerates.
Yeehaw! It’s another working day on Supernatural! Yowza! Let’s have a prayer circle in the hopes that this haunting has nothing to do with a possessed truck (“Route 666”).
Back at the bunker we get another name check for Cas in the form of a conversation about Sam’s recent phone conversation with Dean’s best friend about Dean. This is a new season record I think; usually Castiel is forgotten until he suddenly shows up in a random episode. I remember the good old days when Castiel had a purpose and was a founding member of Team Free Will… sigh.
Sam only shares a little bit with Dean. First, Castiel may have a lead on Cain. Secondly Castiel has discovered riverboat gambling. I am not sure about this because I don’t think Castiel would waste time gambling but hey! At least he keeps busy…
Dean is being a Debby Downer this episode because… you know… logic! If Cain knew how to remove the Mark, he would have done it centuries ago. It’s not fun. It’s a burden and a curse (“First Born”). Oh! This week Dean is keen to hunt again. I think I need a heating pad for the whiplash from the brothers’ changing attitudes as to whether Dean should hunt. Dean has found a case regarding a haunted truck. This is old school y’all!
The brothers head off to college which turns into a bad excuse to write Dean as a perverted glutton. He’s coveting ass and dorm grub in a creepy gross funny fat uncle way. Sadly it comes off as a failed attempt at humor rather than a provocative allusion to Dean’s mental state. Oh well!
So they interview the witness as Agents Grohl and Cobain (Nirvana), and yes Dean is associated with the one who sadly committed suicide. Tipsy Chick or Ms. Novoselic (also Nirvana and worth a yuk) is now sober but not keen on cooperating because it’s finals week. They learn that doomed dude inherited the truck from his estranged brother that died in Afghanistan. This early in the episode we know it’s a red herring. They’ll burn that trunk and discover another death on their way out of town.
Anyhow… The interview prompts this mind boggling exchange between the brothers. Sam asks Dean, “If you died and I drove your car, you’d kill me?” Dean says yes “If you stunk her up with tacquitos, probably.” OMG! It makes no sense and it’s not funny folks.
Supernatural 101, the basic information that any fan or writer has to know about the show, includes the fact that Dean sold his soul to save Sam and goes to Hell after he dies at the end of season 3. It’s kind of a big deal. Then of course he’s raised from perdition by Castiel, resurrected and crawls out of his grave to find that Baby has been douched up by his brother who acquired an Ipod. Sam is still walking and talking. Then he stunk up Baby with dog and farmer’s market fare when Dean was living the high life in Purgatory. And still Dean didn’t kill him. However Dean wisely kept the car after his third major death (“Do You Believe in Miracles?”). Dumb, tone deaf dialogue.
Whatever. At least we get a lovely salt and burn scene which conveys the good old days visually at least. And of course there’s another suspicious murder, probably while they were out vandalizing junk yard trunks with their pyrotechnic hijinks. So it’s back to campus where Dean has trouble keeping his eyes to himself or his mind on business.
Anyhow… murder number two was a vapid, vain and immoral sorority girl who didn’t need to study because she was sleeping her way to an A. Her roommate is off to the library because art history is hard (it is).
Easy A is taking yet another insipid selfie when a message pops up on her computer from Princess Elsa 8. The conversation turns mean quickly and then things become very scary when shutting the app, turning off the computer and finally pulling the cord doesn’t stop the accusatory jibber jabber. Easy A becomes hysterical when the monitor flashes “810” which in her limited world means death. Yup. And then the detached computer cord snakes around her neck in the suddenly locked room and strangles her to death. The death throes were nicely done but this character was a bore and this murder is a snore.
Likewise the post-murder wooden dialogue mocking Dean’s ignorance about technobabble and social media is a snoozefest, out of place and sooo wrong on so many levels. Dean learned hacking from Frank Devereaux (“Adventures in Babysitting”), used a translation phone app in “Heartache”, cloned a phone in “Citizen Fang”, and had his phone exploding with social media in “Girls, Girls, Girls”.
To me this representation of Dean is out of character and displays a clear ignorance of canon. Furthermore, it feels like the writers threw a main character and the show’s most iconic character under the bus for cheap laughs. How does this stuff pass muster with the Head writer or the Showrunner? Mr. Carver I adore your writing and thematic underpinnings; however, somebody needs to ride riot on the poor writing, and Mr. Glass seems too busy with social media to bother.
Ughh. The nonsense doesn’t stop there. As I mentioned in my introduction, the scene where Dean enthusiastically eats the full range of the buffet, seemingly in its entirety, reeks of the same sense of misplaced buffoonery. In no way does this scene convey Mark related jitters or displaced urges. urges
The scene isn’t helped by more computer tomfoolery in which Sam claims nothing can be removed from the Internet despite the fact that he’s looking at stored information on Easy A’s computer. At least Sam is amused by Dean’s cluelessness. The only takeaway I have is that Dean is ashamed of his search history… cough… porn… cough… which doesn’t sound like the Dean I know. He’s out and proud about his need for hentail and busty Asian beauties.
Yawn. So the point of this nonsensical scene is for Sam to find the “810” messages and make a leap that it’s an address. Luckily there are only three addresses with that number in town because Dean’s main interest remains stuffing his face.
The third address is the charm. They observe a woman throwing vibrant bouquets left at a utility pole into a trash bag. Her husband died in a car crash there within the last year and the flowers, left by a young red haired sorority gal, are a sad reminder. The Winchesters head back to campus to find the only redheaded sorority gal that know, Studious Art History Chick.
Speaking of which… She’s trying to talk sense to a particularly gross frat brother who in turn is rude, verbally dismissive and trolling a hook-up app as they speak. Studious Art History Chick is upset by the recent deaths and wants to go to the police. She quickly leaves Frat Brat to his hook-up so that our busy ghost can get his kill on by 8:10. She’s in visible distress so we can all yell “Boo boo Princess” at the television without disrespecting our man Dean. Yes Bobby I am looking at you and your cruel tough love.
Luckily this next murder is off the charts awesome and even breaks the sound barrier. Nigel Tufnel (This is Spinal Tap) would be ever so pleased because the ghost faced killer managed to get the speakers to go well above 11 to liquify and splatter Frat Brat’s grey matter, such as it was. Big yuk and two thumbs up for the gross special effects.
To wit, Frat Brat hears a knock on the door. No one is there; cue ominous music. He returns to his head banging and waiting for his imminent other banging. The door locks behind him and his phone rings and screams at him, asking the time in excellent demon voice. I would be terrified myself; he chooses clueless. Well luckily it’s 8:10 otherwise known as time to die…. Mwahahaha! Cue ear seepage, eye seepage and brain explosion.
These are nice visuals for a ghostly kill, even if the death by speaker doesn’t make a lot of sense. Charmelo and Snyder could singlehandedly revive the flailing Final Destination franchise with these creative, nonsensical kills. That’s the point of those movies. Unfortunately, there should be a little more meat in a Supernatural episode.
Have these writers ever been to a loud hard rock concert. Loud music hurts well before you explode. Okay I am guessing on that last part. However I saw Black Flag back in the day and we had to stuff toilet paper in our ears because Henry Rollins was a screamer and it was too loud to be endured. But hey! They score points for creativity… right?
Maybe a killer truck would have been a blessing in disguise…
So with no one left to make her decisions, Studious Art History Chick finally spills the beans. She and the three dead students were joy riding, taking selfies and texting… Oh gosh these kids these days with their selfies and texting! They cause a crash of course, don’t call 911, don’t help the other driver, and drive away when a downed power line starts the fire that kills the crash victim. Yep.
Now he’s a vengeful ghost, natch. Studious Art History Student tried to get those other bad kids to do the right thing and she’s felt bad ever since because her whining wasn’t enough to make them do the right thing. Sigh. Poor thing. She has to study all the time to forget. I say let the vengeful spirit have his day.
Sadly that’s not the Winchester way. Everyone has enough brain capacity to realize that she’s next in line to be ghost fodder. So Dean draws the short straw and is stuck protecting her whilst Sam gets to drive around admiring the night sky. Actually he’s very useful during this episode. He realizes that the ghost is in the wifi lines and he makes contact with the victim’s wife who hates flowers and has been having an online relationship with her dead husband. It’s rare for them to meet someone that actually knows about the supernatural and accepts them. Oh my! Could her acceptance be an important thing to note…And cue eyeroll.
Dean and the whiney redhead share a moment because she feels bad and he can relate. She’s not really a good mirror for Dean however because she sat on her ass and did nothing and Dean always tries to save people and do good by taking out all manner of baddies. Yet somehow these writers are committed to it.
Dean gives his usual blah, blah, blah, my bad speech, “I’ve made more mistakes than I can count. Ones that haunt me day and night;” and he tells her how he copes, “Whiskey… Denial… I do my best to make things right, whatever that may be. For you, maybe it’s… maybe it’s coming clean. You know… finding a way to ask for forgiveness. But not breaking the bank at your local florist. I mean … real forgiveness. You can’t just bury stuff like this. You got to deal with it.”
Wow. Apparently Dean has learned his lesson after lying to Sam about saving his life last year. Or maybe he’s giving himself a pep talk in advance of actually sharing some information with Sam about the Mark and its affect on him. Dude! You have so not been doing this.
Sam calls Dean with the wifi intel at about the time all of the many electronic devices in the room light up with vengeful ghost face. Dean breaks them all with his trusty tire iron and they race to the basement where the wifi sucks. Dean salts the doorway. Unfortunately the ghost reception is great is on the enormous abandoned phone that they find. The ghost is loose and bopping in and out as Dean tire irons him into temporary oblivion.
Sam is now speaking with the widow who has to be the easiest interview ever. And she doesn’t want revenge unlike her dearly departed husband.
Long story short. Dean texts 911 to Sam on the basement phone and the wife calls in using Skype I guess and talks our killer ghost down when he only has one lame college student to go. It seems rather unfair to me. Oh well. He goes into the light and the last student alive hitches a ride with the brothers to the widow’s house to reminisce about hubby’s horrible death and her lousy friends. I have no idea what they say to each other but at least they’re talking. Yippee!
Oh! Before the wife phones in and ghost whispers, Dean monologues a super important text because our killer ghost is killer Dean in this weird world of subtext, mirrors and parallels that the writer’s refuse to leave, “Andrew, listen to me. You have every right to be pissed. But take it from me… the more you kill, the crazier you’ll get. The blood fuels the rage. So, it looks like to me you’ve got two choices. You can keep killing and become something that you won’t recognize or you can move on, ’cause that is the only thing that is gonna give you peace. So, it’s up to you, man. Pain or peace.” Yikes! My poor sweet Dean…
The killer ghost ignores Dean but listens to his wife, the one that loves him even after he became a ghost. That’s unconditional love folks. It’s the kind of love that Colette gave Cain. It is not the love that Sam has shown for Dean. Unconditional loves means accepting Dean Marked and demonic. Someone please get this leaden anvil off of my head.
Anyhow I wonder which Shakespeare quote Dean will chose. “Parting is such sweet sorrow” (“Romeo and Juliet”); in other words he flies the coop. Or will it be, “To be or not to be (“Hamlet”)” and he tries to kill himself or die by heroic sacrifice. My money is on all three in sequential order.
Anyhow that bit of advice that he gave to the final girl has already been forgotten by our Deano. He’s shoving it all inside where Sam can’t find it and focusing on what he does best: saving people, hunting things, killing things.
Dean tells Sam he is done with this futile race for the cure. His peace is working cases and helping people. Sam says that he can’t stop fighting and is incredulous at the idea that Dean would just give up. Dean again gifts us with an important monologue, “No. No, I’m not just gonna give up. I appreciate the effort, okay? I do. But the answer is not out there. It’s with me. I need to be the one calling the shots here, okay? I can’t keep waking up every morning with this false hope. I got to know where I stand. Otherwise, I’m gonna lose my freakin’ mind. So I’m gonna fight it til I can’t fight it anymore. And when all is said and done… I’ll go down swinging.”
This is just so Dean. Okay then. Death by heroic sacrifice it is unless his awesome demon self takes control first.
Still I scream “Hell yes! “Hallelujah!” At the idea that the answer is within Dean. However, like our ghostface killer… scratch that… like Cain and several of our recent weekly monsters, Dean will need his family to support him and keep him anchored.
I sense a problem here because I don’t sense that Sam is supportive. Sam wants to fix him which isn’t the same thing as being a rock, and it’s patently wrong if Dean doesn’t want it. It’s Dean’s body, his life and his choice. Free Will and all of that.
Oh well! I have better things to do than think about this episode. Onwards to Cain and that magnificent mane.