I took a vacation this weekend, so I watched Friday's episode of Supernatural a little late — and then had to mull over whether "Out with the Old" was great or awful for another 24 hours. I'm still undecided. In its favor, this episode returned to the Supernatural format I love, where the show seems to be about one thing and then takes an abrupt left turn halfway through. But the plot also felt a little messy and aimless, particularly when we got to . . . spoilers!
The greatest plot structure ever
This episode started out as a monster-of-the-weeker that felt like an hommage to Warehouse 13, with the brothers tracking down some cursed objects that a guy was selling while liquidating the inventory in his recently-deceased mother's magic shop. Making things more complicated is Sam's insane sleep deprivation — everytime he shuts his eyes, Lucifer starts tormenting him. But even operating on no sleep, Sam quickly figures out that a ballerina who died by foot amputation (in the middle of dancing) had probably stumbled across some cursed ballet shoes.
The Winchesters now have to stumble around looking for the other cursed objects, without the aid of Artie or any artifact containment devices. This section, where they hunt down a teapot that forces its owner to drink boiling hot water (gross!) and an old gentlemen's magazine that forces its owner to do something Dean doesn't want to talk about, feels just a bit clumsy and awkward. Until . . . dum dum dum! We find out that the magic shop isn't the only one in town that's shut its doors recently. In fact, there's a real estate odd couple who've been buying up real estate right and left, leaving many owners dead right after signing the contracts.
And wouldn't you know it, but the real estate agents are Leviathans! I like that plot twist, because at this point Leviathans have now embodied representatives of every form of evil corporation you can think of. Dick Roman's got his fingers in every pie. So Sam and Dean go after the Mrs. Robinsonesque Leviathan who likes to boss around her sidekick, George.
This basic plot structure feels very classic Supernatural to me. Unfortunately, it also felt a bit muddied.
The inevitable Dean ballerina joke
I'm not sure why this is inevitable, but apparently it is. When he's not watching anime, apparently Dean was watching Black Swan on auto-replay. So the shoes look mighty tempting.
More dreary corporate Leviathans
Mrs. Robinsonesque Leviathan was supposed to be sort of snappy and amusing, and watching her boss George around was supposed to show us, once again, the banality of the Leviathan's brand of corporate evil. But it just felt kind of stale. It was all "George this coffee has one pump, not two," and "George, you know how many assistants I've had already?" and "George, get rid of this dead body." We've heard this kind of patter before from Dick Roman, where it felt snappy and fresh. Not so much here.
What was terrific about this interlude was when George abruptly turned on his boss, helping the brothers to kill her with a sword. Sidenote: I wanted to know more about that - did the sword actually kill her? Was it a magic sword? Or was it just temporarily stopping her so that George could eat her? Since we never see him eat her, it's unclear. Also, is her head going to sit in that magic safe now forever?
So is George an ally, now? Do the Winchesters have a guy on the inside of the Leviathans? Sort of. He's not going to kill them, and he does give them some information on that field that Dick Roman's company bought. "It's a research facility where we're going to cure cancer," George says. Huh?
But also, why do we care about that research facility again?
George explains that the cancer cure place is only one of tons of facilities all over the world that Dick is creating. Shouldn't the boys be looking at the big picture instead of obsessing over this one stupid field? I have to admit that the cancer center thing is intriguing, so I want to know more. But if I were trying to create a plan of action to take down all the Leviathans? I think I'd try for a bigger picture sense of the threat.
Plus, why were the Leviathans buying up little stores in Portland? Will we ever know what their Portland real estate empire is leading to? I guess we don't need to worry about that plot anymore? Confused.
And now it's time to process our feelings
Sam admits to Dean that Lucifer is singing in his head all the time, so we've already had some heart-to-heart about mental illness before the end of the episode. Instead, we have to process our feelings about, well, gore.
As the episode closes, the brothers pay a visit to Frank. Unfortunately, his trailer is soaked in blood and all his equipment has been destroyed. So, either Frank had a REALLY bad nosebleed, or the Leviathans got to him. Bummer. (Though Frank was never really a favorite character of mine.)
Allow me to return to my point about gore. This episode especially called attention to the fact that Supernatural has been relying more heavily on the "super disgusting tableau" effect to elicit a reaction from viewers. The scene with the dead, footless ballerina, and the woman drinking boiling water, were both gory in a cool way — but good gore is no replacement for good plotting. Frank's death (or abduction, or nosebleed) struck me in the same way. It felt random and tacked-on at the end of this episode.
Why did we need the Frank reveal at the end? We'd already had chockablock revelations, which as I said earlier sort of randomly led back to the giant research center (even though really it should have led us to why Dick is buying real estate in Portland but whatever). So it kind of makes sense that we'd get a Frank moment, since he was instrumental throughout the episode in investigating the field where the research center will go. But I got a kind of "let's throw something else in" feeling from this whole scene.
Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but are the brothers now carrying all those cursed objects around with them in a U-Haul trailer? Including Mrs. Robinsonesque's head?
Let's hope things are less muddled next episode, when Lucifer and Castiel (CAS WE MISSED YOU) make appearances!