But then you add the direction and costuming and the sexualization of Portia in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY and I just want to HULK-SMASH something. She didn't have to be wearing the collar the entire freaking episode. And if they wanted to keep it for continuity and as part of ~world-building, then they could have made it a much subtler, less look-how-I'm-owned! collar. And did they have to use the term 'master'? They couldn't have just said 'witch'?
If this were not SPN I'd almost think that the master/familiar dynamic was some sort of social commentary because the two familiars were a female POC and a gay (at least, that was how he seemed coded to me) man, both of whom are usually objectified and fetishized in the media. So if you'd had a story of familiars, I dunno, rebelling against their ~masters and overturning the
So I liked the story in and of itself, but the way it was executed was just so appalling.
At least Portia was a genuinely strong and fantastic character.
And SAMMY. Oh my god, that ending, I just want to beat the writers over the head with a textbook. If they kill him or make him fail so that Dean has to save the day I will just, I don't know what I will do, but I will be VERY, VERY ANGRY. How dare they. They're taking one step forward and two steps back, having Dean acknowledge he was wrong but then showing that he might be right and poor widdle Sammy can't handle it?!?
NO. STOP IT. STOP INFANTILIZING SAM. It was okay in the early seasons when Sam was young. It's okay if Dean does it occasionally because that's realistic to sibling dynamics. At this point in time, it's not okay for the NARRATIVE to be doing it, too.
Trying to ignore that awfulness, I think I liked the rest of the Dean'n'Sam stuff? I think their conversation about trust was very true to the characters (even if the lead-up to it sucked; Dean saying that the witch spell might not work = Sam can't do anything right, really?), and I'm glad Sam was standing up for himself. Dean not trusting anyone besides himself is not the same motivation as Dean-needs-Sam-to-live that we saw in the previous episode, but even though the latter is much more sympathetic than the former, I think both thought processes are genuine (i.e., I don't think Dean was pretending anything last episode to hide his ~true motive). I think Dean really can't abide the idea of a future where he lives and Sam doesn't, and I think the fact that he doesn't trust anyone but himself only makes it easier to rationalize the idea that He Has To Be The One To Die. If Sam *can't* do it, then Dean doesn't have to worry about the selfish aspects of his Sammy Has To Live [With The Survivor's Guilt] motive. For about two seconds I really hoped that we'd actually get to see Dean finally trusting Sam and it working out, and THEN THE NOSE BLEED STARTED, AND OH LOOK I CAN'T IGNORE THE AWFULNESS, SCREW YOU WRITERS.
Oh wait, before I get off the caps-locky portion of the evening, HOW ABOUT THOSE FLASHBACKS. At first I was like, "HOW DARE YOU MAKE THE BOYS RELIVE BEING TORTURED," and then I was like, "actually the continuity and the scenes you chose and what they say about the boys' characterization is really cool, A+ on that aspect of the episode, writers." But really, there should have been a trauma trigger warning for our poor hearts. I can't believe they showed Dean on the rack. And the fact that a comparable worst memory is his mother dying? And Sam remembering jumping into the pit and sacrificing EVERYTHING and being TORTURED for it, brb sobbing forever, BABIES.
Okay, moving on.
This is weird, but I really like that Dean doesn't like dogs (and I really like that Sam does). I am just as averse to dogs as Dean is, and I don't think I've ever seen that on TV before, given how it's basically a cardinal sin in society to Not Like Dogs. I really liked Dean and Portia's scenes together, especially given how spectacularly FANTASTIC Jensen's awkward faces were. I especially liked their ending exchange and how she joked she might even miss him, too. I really hope we see her again (I'm so relieved she didn't die; I thought she would sacrifice herself for James at the end, and then this episode would have gone straight to the bottom of the shitlist with "Heart").
So I'd say this episode definitely had some ups and downs. The good parts were Good, and the bad parts were Heinous. I've now lost probably 80% of my enthusiasm for the season arc that last week's episode gave me. What did y'all think?