Tuesday’s episode opened with a man (councilman Gordon Baxter as played by Ryan Reilly) troubled by his dreams, so much so that they killed him. We then cut to the usual flirtatious banter between John and Mary before it’s off to the Scooby gang where they are split between pursuing their lead on the Akrida or investigating the councilman’s death. Surprise, surprise Ada casts the deciding vote in the monster of the week’s favor. Why? We soon learn the “monster” is a djinn*, and he is also Ada’s son (Tyler Lofton) – hi Tony! This comes in handy after John bribes officer Betty for a lead on the Akrida’s next target (Anthony S. Goolsby playing contractor Derek Fisher). Tony, not being a bad monster agrees to help save Mary after she gets bit by an Akrida. There’s some convoluted BS about stingers and deep dark trauma but with some help from John, Mary is A-OK. We end with some new insights into the Akrida’s master plan and Ada leaving the group to get to know her son better.
I wasn’t a huge fan of this episode for several reasons, the main one being that it is all over the place. There’s growth and insight for Ada, an out of nowhere love interest for Latika, and subpar performances from Meg and Drake in one scene versus the entire show.
See, for most of the episode, John and Mary’s evolving relationship is handled well. The scene with them in the garage after the monster-tease opener is a good example of this. Drake does a fine job of showing John’s cautious optimism with regard to Mary and its subsequent dashing when she tells him she plans on leaving Lawrence altogether. Meg is good at playing Mary all walls up when she’s around John but vulnerable when talking about love with Ada. Yet, later, when Mary is under the spell of the Akrida and forced to face some of her most traumatic childhood memories, there’s a scene that – for me at least – fails on all cylinders.
Following a decent scene of Mary at 10 (Anabelle Holloway) standing over the body of a werewolf she slayed, we come upon a five-year-old version of herself (Jophielle Love). It’s the night her parents told her she’s gonna be a monster-hunter, and I gotta say Meg’s delivery feels forced and hollow. Drake’s John isn’t any better here. His lines come off as bored, for lack of a better word. There’s a chance that since this episode focuses so heavily on John and Mary’s evolving relationship anything that detracts from this far more interesting storyline simply wasn’t acted with as much dedication. It would be my best explanation as I thoroughly enjoy Meg and Drake in every other scene but here.
But it’s a stark contrast given Demetria delivers a nuanced performance in an episode that reveals probably the most we’ve seen from her character so far. Though human with witch tendencies, Ada is revealed to have had a romantic relationship with a Jinn (*spellings vary), and following that a child who is half-human and half-monster. Her vulnerability at failing this child, along with her wisdom to keep his existence a secret from monster hunters really endears this character to me when before I didn’t have much investment in her. Naturally, they capitalize on this newfound depth by getting rid of her…uh the fuck? Though, I can’t say that entirely unexpected, what’s the old saying? Leave them wanting more – success!
What is unexpected is Latika’s contribution to Ada’s storyline. See, while her and Carlos are largely sidelined for most of the episode, they do manage to provide a huge chunk of information about the big bad: the Akrida. Thanks to being pointed in the right direction by Tony, they manage to discover all the people the Akrida have been targeting are connected to the construction of a radio tower. Pulling numerous public filings they unearth the name Roxanne – aka Rockin’ Roxy – and seem to conclude that she’s possibly the leader they’ve been looking for. But, this isn’t the contribution I was speaking of, no, Latika’s surprise comes after Mary has been rescued and Ada is about to depart on a bonding trip with her estranged son. Turns out Tony has developed a thing for Latika, though there’s no reason given for this. It definitely blindsided me, especially since Tony words it as if he wants to keep up communications with Latika, as if they have been talking this whole time and he doesn’t want to lose the momentum. Maybe the scene hit the cutting room floor? Maybe it’s just designed to be a “love at first sight” type deal, but whatever the case it really comes off as out of left-field. Hey, Latika doesn’t have anything going for her, let’s throw her a bone yeah?
Overall, this episode just didn’t do it for me. It was OK in terms of Mary and John, useless in terms of Carlos and Lata, and obviously a boon for Ada. I like the way they are building John slowly but I’m not thrilled with how they keep trying to make Mary happen. Mary comes from a hunting family, and fans of Supernatural have seen Samuel Campbell in the flesh, but people who are strictly watching The Winchesters don’t know him like that and these emotional manipulations are not helping. Using a djinn for flashback purposes is fine but then fully use it. Having Mary and John walk into what amounts to black box theatre sets where there’s a little girl providing exposition over a dead body, and another one in a bed with a knife saying jack-shit doesn’t help things. You could have done full scenes here, blocked it so the identities of Mary’s mom and dad were obscured enough for an adequate reveal later, and then have Mary react to it, but this!? It felt cheap and hollow – which could explain why Meg and Drake’s performances felt the same.
With respect to budgeting, I have seen complaints on the poor CGI of the monsters but to that I would say, I’m not exactly surprised. Let’s not forget that this is the pilot season to a spinoff for a show that ran for 15 years and only really got good SFX maybe what? Three, four seasons in? Hell, even the last couple of seasons were lacking in that department, so maybe we give this first season a break, yeah? The first season of Supernatural has horrible CGI and SFX, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I might even make the argument that it’s done in homage to the original, but that’s probably not true. Bottom line? This isn’t AMC or Netflix or HBO where the design budget is sky’s the limit, it’s network TV on a channel that may or may not exist a year from now, calm yourself. Unless it’s hurting the actors’ abilities to do their jobs well, let it go.
Finally, my last gripe with this episode is about John. See, when Sam and Dean go a hunting they have the mentality that all monsters are bad. This mindset doesn’t get challenged for a while in the original series, and it is established that their father John taught them all monsters are bad and need to be killed. Period. No questions asked. However, once again, we’re getting some canon shifting with respect to John. While he initially sticks to the idea that all monsters = bad, he resigns to work with Tony to save Mary. This gets me to thinking, particularly when you factor in the VO’s by future Dean, that maybe none of this is supposed to be real. Is it possible that this whole series is nothing more than Dean Winchester re-writing the past as he wishes it had been? I mean, again, as I said when writing the pilot’s review, it’s entirely possible that all of these canonical inaccuracies can be fixed through angelic or godly intervention, but failing that the most obvious solution is to just St. Elsewhere it. Also, since I’m bringing up Dean’s voiceovers for the first time, allow me to say that this week’s VO seemed more apt for last week’s episode. Though in fairness, I haven’t been keeping track of them. Supernatural never had VO, and while I get the need for it in the pilot, I don’t think he adds anything all that useful to each episode.
Easily a C, maybe the werewolves in next week’s episode can bring us back up?