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October 6, 2015

'Supernatural' Season 6, Episode 5 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 25th 2010 10:15AM
['Supernatural' - 'Live Free or Twihard']

Well, that was odd.

'Live Free or Twihard' was certainly radical a change from the comedically-inflected, very enjoyable 'Weekend at Bobby's.'

And I'm not sure 'Twihard' worked, for a number of reasons.

I think this is one of those episodes I'll have to think about for a while; part of my brain is still scrambled by the surreal/freaky elements of the episode. All things considered, though, 'Twihard' wasn't quite substantial enough to warrant the amount of time it spent on Dean's melodramatic trip to vampland. There was something overheated about the episode, and tonally much of it didn't feel like it belonged in the 'Supernatural' universe.

Normally I'm OK with the show's tonal or storytelling experiments, and we can all name a dozen 'Supernatural' episodes that tried something different and ended up working. Yet this one seemed to offer a lot of sizzle and not much steak. Story-wise, it didn't add much to our overall store of season 6 knowledge, it merely expanded a bit on things we already knew, and in return asked that we accept a lot -- Dean as an Insta!Vamp and Sam as Very Different!Sam

Of course, we did learn one fairly substantial thing -- in the episode's last scene, we saw that Dean does not trust Sam at all anymore. That could be an interesting development for the future, but it could also be dangerous. Yes, I've been the one pleading for more substantial development of the brothers' relationship. But will that be satisfying if one of them is, as far as we know, not himself?

We already knew that Different!Sam is, you guessed it, different. Still, it was a surprise to see him looking on with keen interested while Dean got vampified, instead of helping his brother. Sam certainly allowed that to happen on purpose, just as Samuel guessed. And for a Campbell to call someone out on cold-blooded behavior, you know that had to be an icy move.

So we in the audience, and obviously Dean, got confirmation that, without a doubt, Something Is Up With Sammy. Before I get into a discussion of the episode, it might be worthwhile to discuss what that Something is. Or rather, who Different!Sam is working for.

Again, this episode wasn't exactly chock-full of new information, but we learned that, as is the case in the rest of the supernatural-creature world, something big is going on in the vamp camp. They're on a recruitment spree and they're taking orders psychically from a big-time Alpha bloodsucker. Given that it's been well-established this season that there is major weirdness affecting all or most supernatural creatures, this wasn't that revelatory.

As to how this relates to Sam, let's suppose -- and we have no reason not to -- that all the creature clans are taking orders from one entity or working from the same source of information. That source, of course, knows what his/her/its goals are, and therefore, it does not need someone to gather intel for him/her/it. Therefore, it might be the case that Sam gathering information for the other side -- quite possibly the non-Devil/non-demon side?

Here's a theory: Someone (possibly Lucifer or Satan or a fallen/rebel angel) allied with the demon/vamp/critter world is assembling an army and planning something big, and the other side (perhaps heaven, Michael, a faction of angels, etc.) freed Sam from the cage in order to have him gather intel on what the enemy is up to. There's no reason that Michael and Lucifer can't continue their cage match, whether or not they're inside the cage, right?

But given all the unrest in heaven, it could actually be two factions from upstairs preparing for war (and that would parallel the Brother vs. Brother theme in the Winchesters' world). Whatever's going on, it certainly appears that Different!Sam is on a fact-finding mission, and if he has to risk Dean's life to gather intelligence, Sam is OK with that. Sam got out of the cage all right, but he's not the Sam from before and he's clearly got an agenda.

Could Sam be OK with previously objectionable things because he doesn't have a soul any more? I've been wondering about this for a while now. Perhaps a de-souled version of Sam was returned to Earth: That would account for his coldness and his lack of objection to the danger that Dean was in, the torture of the kid, etc. And as we saw in 'The Third Man,' souls are quite valuable and have uses we haven't been told about yet.

One more question: Is it possible that Sam himself doesn't fully know he's gathering intel for someone else? Perhaps his strings are being pulled in some way. But again, does that make his journey less interesting this season -- if he has no agency and he's not really himself, does the character's journey actually have stakes that we can care about?

That all remains to be seen, and all of the above is speculation, of course. All we really got in 'Twihard' is confirmation that those on the front lines are mere patsies for players with big plans. And it's early in the season: I'm reserving judgment on Sam and Dean's individual journeys and where the brother relationship is going. I still feel we need more information before we can assess how all that is playing out and whether it's satisfying or not. I'm actually intrigued by some of what's going on between the brothers, and interested to see where that goes.

But I'd like to insert a warning here: I've had to shut down comments in the past because people were incensed about this or that piece of Sam or Dean character development and how it was handled. I don't want to have to do that here, so please be considered and thoughtful in your remarks about what transpired in 'Twihard.' I don't want to have to shut down comments, but I will if things become overheated or strident.

As for the episode itself, 'Twihard' was strange, and I think the strangeness might have worked better had things not taken a hard right turn as soon as Dean himself was turned. There was a rushed, fevered quality to the episode, which, on the one hand, reflected Dean's confusing transformation, but also reflected the fact that that transition got no meaningful introduction and lacked emotional impact.

First, an objection to the vamp turning itself: It was way, way too easy to turn Dean. I know it's been established in the 'Supernatural' universe that all it takes to turn people into vamps is the ingestion of a few drops of blood from a vamp. Well, that is just kind of silly (not to mention convenient). In most other vampire stories, it takes way more than that to turn someone, which seems appropriate for an activity that leads to eternal life (well, until someone slices your head off). And given that we got almost a whole season of lead-in to Demon!Sam two years ago, it just felt odd that Vamp!Dean arrived in about five seconds.

In any event, the turning of Dean led to a lot of surreal scenes that reflected the tumult that Dean felt as he changed and lived as a vamp, but the episode probably went too far in depicting things from his perspective, and it ended up being overly melodramatic. There were really two very different tones to the episode: The rather obvious, very 'Supernatural'-esque slam on all things 'Twilight' that we saw in the first few scenes, and then the overheated, Dean-as-vampire sequences, which were bloody, menacing and/or surreal -- though not especially substantial, in terms of information or emotional impact.

Between those two tonally different sections, there was no real transition to speak of -- in what felt like no time at all, we went from "Emo vamps suck!" to Dean's crazy, tripped out vision of the Alpha vampire. As was the case with 'The Third Man,' it felt like two different episodes, or two kinds of episodes, awkwardly jammed together.

Just from a plotting perspective, it kind of bugged me that Dean made a rookie mistake with the dead man's blood, which led to the bloody vamp slaughter, which seemed rather pointless. Also, the vamps were recruiting hot young men, who would then recruit pretty young women, who would then recruit hot young men, and so on -- and all of them lived on blood bank blood? None of them ever slipped and killed anyone? Like Sam, I don't quite see how that whole story added up, though I'll grant that there did appear to be the beginnings of an army in that building.

Still, was it really necessary to use the 'Twilight' moody-vamp approach to gather all those recruits? The vamps couldn't figure out how to write appealing emails or hit on prospective victims without the help of girls like Kristen? All in all, the vampire plot seemed jury-rigged to A) provide the show the opportunity to make fun of 'Twilight' and B) allow us to know that there's a powerful Alpha vamp out there somewhere. It didn't make much organic sense on its own.

If the show was going to look into the subculture of people who are attracted to vampires and their lore, it could have tried to match the "Buffy" season 2 episode that delved into some similar areas with more substantial results. 'Twihard' just took some cheap shots the more banal and mockable aspects of the 'Twilight' books; I kind of expected more biting wit, if you will, if the show was going to go there.

Yes, I've read all the 'Twilight' books and seen all the films, and I make no argument to them being great art, but I can understand (to some extent) their appeal. Now, let's not have a giant flame war about whether the 'Twilight' books and films are awful or good. Please, let's not. I'm merely saying it's disappointing 'Supernatural' was not especially creative in mocking that whole phenomenon -- and I'm the first to admit that there's a lot to mock there.

A few more notes:

• I don't expect every episode to be a laugh riot, but there wasn't much funny in this episode. However the line "News flash, Mr. Wizard: Vampires pee!" did make me laugh.

• The slapdash nature of the plot affected the Lisa part of the episode as well. I'm invested in Lisa as a character, but now I'm not even sure where she and Dean stand after his weird, "I'm Pattinson" trip to her house. We never did find out if Dean got through to her to tell her he was not, in fact, dead. And that scene at her house -- how'd he get there that fast? I actually wondered if that part was a dream sequence too, given how quickly Dean got there and how odd it all looked.

• It was mildly amusing to see, in the opening scenes, a very Bella-like character exchanging banal Bella - Edward dialogue straight from the 'Twilight' books. But again, how is mentioning Robert Pattinson, and partly mentioning Kristen Stewart and Tayler Lautner, effectively satirizing 'Twilight'? The 'My Summer of Blood' posters were the best they could do? I don't know, I was just expecting something wittier or more incisive, if you will.

• Anyone else get a "Playthings" vibe off those two little girls in Dean's vision?

• I liked Samuel calling Sam on what happened with Dean -- they may be taking Samuel in an interesting direction as a character. After all, Samuel himself was raised by the dead by someone -- I wonder who did that and why?

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Lune Rouge

I really enjoyed this episode. I like very much vampire stories, not the "twilight" style but the "Supernatural" style, because after all vampires are monsters, they kill humans and drink blood. I think the parody of twilight was very funny (bad poetry!).

October 29 2010 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Rating B. Liked this episode. First part was funny, if a bit long and slow. Nice parody on the vampire craze. Reminded me of TMATEOTB. Dean reading the vampire book just like he was reading the supernatural books. Dean's reaction the same.
Dean: "He's watching her sleep, tell me that isn't rapey?"
Later Dean is doing the exact same thing.

Love that Dean is staying in touch with Lisa and Ben. Conversation with Lisa was touching and sexy. Like the easy rapport Dean has with Lisa. Dean still having the close connection with them showing how much Dean wants his family. Loved Lisa telling Dean to "shut up and get your ass here". The happy smile smirk on Dean's face, delicious. Sam not happy with this.

Sam is broken no doubt now. Watching as Dean was being vamped. Self satisfied look Sam had with the tiniest of really creepy smile, chilling. Sam sure looks like Lucifer is "wearing him to the prom!" (Know Lucy isn't tho.

Another lovely motel room...NOT. We know Sam is still somewhat human. Dean could hear his heart beat, even if Dean was questioning why Sam was as calm as he was. And Sam asking Dean all those questions about being a vampire. Dean's reaction "what now you want to talk about my feelings?" great line. Sam one very creepy, scary dude!

I thought Sam wasn't lying saying he'd never heard about the cure..Maybe Samuel was talking to his doppelganger.

Was holding my breath as Dean stood in silhouette watching Lisa sleep. Heartbreaking Dean telling Lisa he can't bring his life to her, because it's dark and violent. Knew where this was going. I was so hoping that Lisa was not going to be his first feed. Yeah for Dean fighting the urges. Still wasn't breathing when Ben came out of his room. Oh No...Dean DON'T KILL BEN! Dean would never forgive himself if they died by his hand. Have I mentioned I SO DON'T WANT LISA AND BEN TO DIE!!! Dean so needs Lisa to keep him human, grounded and being able to feel emotions so he can deal with whatever is wrong with Sam.

The rift between the boys is now a cavern. Dean thinking the only escape for him was for Sam to kill him, and he's hurt when he found out Sam wouldn't kill him. Tragic to see Dean greet Samuel asking him to kill him. The site of Dean presenting his neck so his head could be slice off just made the thump in my throat bigger.

The nest was awesome. Loved the lighting and camera work. The old bank with that gorgeous stained glass ceiling was fantastic .Dean meeting the Alpha, interesting. Dean sure did spill a lot of blood. Dean sitting with that knife in his hand and his foot resting on the head of the vamp that turned him was horrific, not to mention gory. Is it my imagination or has this season heading toward being the goriest season?

Dean seeing the look on Sam's face while he was being turned. Jensen does that close up on the eye so well, the expressions that show how he exactly how he feels.

Special kudos to Jared. He has so brought his A game to this season. He is fantastic playing this Sam and not giving anything away!

I miss the old lady's man Dean with his flirty ways and sassy one-liners but after 5 years we all have to grow up and become a responsible person - even for Dean Winchester.

IMHO it would be a gigantic mistake to kill/take Lisa and Ben out of Dean's life. He has lost everything he ever held dear. Lisa & Ben are a safe haven for him to maintain his sanity, never mind humanity. If he looses them what would he have to live for. If that happens I could see Dean at the end of Supernatural committing suicide either by his own hand running into the middle of some evil force/creatures so they would kill him, he wouldn't do anything to stop them. And that would be a tragic end to an awesome series.

October 27 2010 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Story-wise, it didn't add much to our overall store of season 6 knowledge, it merely expanded a bit on things we already knew..."

Uh... isn't that what episode 6 of a 22-episode season *should* do? Advance the plot somewhat while still retaining enough mystery to keep us checking in? I think it achieved that quite admirably actually. And also shed a lot of light on what has aired previously - for example it looks pretty clear now that Sam hasn't had Dean's best interests at heart at all thus far, and that he may well have set Dean up as djinn bait and shapeshifter bait. It totally backs up Dean's gut instinct when it comes to distrusting Sam - something for which Dean has received a lot of criticism on various forums.

Anyhoo, over and above that, I enjoyed it (apart from the woefully long introduction sequence) and I thought Jensen Ackles was excellent as always. Unfortunately I think this arc is taking Jared Padalecki way beyond his acting limits: I can't work out whether Sam's sheer bipolarness is intentional or just the result of a weak performance. This kind of is he or isn't he storyline requires nuance and subtlety, not the notorious constipation face. If they are planning some sort of bait and switch to reveal that Sam is actually working for good (interesting theory, btw), it won't be convincing to this viewer because the foundation for doubt won't have been laid down in JP's performance. He's coming over as all-bad at the moment.

October 27 2010 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There wasn't really a connection between the points I'm making, so it's more of a "hail of bullets" style posting...

1) I'm not convinced it's not Lucifer riding around in a Sam suit. Yes, Sammy did apparently wrest control long enough to jump in the pit but we don't know what happened afterwards. I could very easily see Lucifer deciding to pretend to be Sam so he could observe and/or control what's going on topside.

2) I'm kinda inclined to think that the alpha vampire is an angel of some sort - that black suit and tie was awfully like what I've seen other angels wearing.

3) I called it after the first episode - they writers built in an escape clause for themselves by making that djinn/dream episode the first one of the season. If they get to a point that they can't write themselves out of, they've got a retcon ready to go.

4) It seems to me that the Campbells would've have shared some, if not all, of their hunter secrets with John even if it was only for the sake of Mary and/or her children. Unless, of course, grandpa is really something else like Sam.

*side note - I find myself using Sam when commenting about this season instead of Sammy. I guess it's my subconscious commenting on the difference.

October 26 2010 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think it's important to stop watching this season as a continuation of previous seasons and recognize that the writers have moved on from a little horror film every week. They're telling a mystery story now with Film Noir as their inspiration. If looked at in that sense, this season is working beautifully. We have Dean in the role of the "detective" and every thing the audience sees is from his perspective (I'm still in a debate with myself as to whether this makes Sam the femme fatale or not). So, if the episode was choppy, disjointed and rushed, it's because Dean was feeling/experiencing things in that way. This doesn't diminish the other character's stories, it just makes the audience wait until Dean discovers their motivations before we know them.

I came into this season nervous and expecting the worst and as more questions come to light, as Dean (and myself) becomes more confused, lost and desperate, the happier I become. I can't wait to dive into the next episode to find out what nugget of information Dean is going to discover as he walks his path into finding out what's happening and what needs to be done to solve the mystery.

It's a gutsy move on the producers/writers part to take such a divergence from what came before but I honestly see this as becoming one of their greatest seasons when we get the opportunity to see it in retrospect.

October 26 2010 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to Alex's comment

It seems the episode either works for you or it doesn't. I also expected something on the level of 'Changing Channels', I didn't get what I expected but 'Live free or twihard' still managed to be my favorite episode of the season. I agree with you Mo that there could have been more variety in the making fun of emo vampires but in my opinion you cannot make fun of Twilight in a sophisticated way. Sorry, I think you simply can't. I actually thought Supernatural's approach was very clever. Yes, the opening scene was all about making fun of Twilight but in a way it had nothing to do with it. Why? Because it was simply your usual Supernatural teaser of something terrible happening to the victim of the week. Yes, the girl was called Kristen or Kirsten but if she wouldn't, the scene would have still worked. She would simple be a vampire fan getting her wish fulfilled of meeting a real vampire. A Supernatural vampire showing us his best acting skills at being an emo-vampire of today was absolutely hilarious. I loved that they played 'Bela Lugosi is dead' while Supernatural's Edward and Bella reenacted Twilight. The entire scene was a perfect reminder why I despise this franchise so much; the only difference was that I thought that Supernatural's version was the ones with the better actors.
I think the opening scene was the perfect introduction for the story of Dean being turned. I can't say I understand your reason for thinking that it's silly that you only need to drink vampire blood to become one. It's the human blood that is said to grant you eternal life and not some strange rituals. I actually prefer Supernatural's more realistic treatment of the subject of a human being turned into a vampire by an infection. Besides Buffy's version of a vampire being the demonic version of a human, it's my favorite. That's why I also liked the cure. If you're poisoned you also need an anti-poison consisting of the original poison (Vampire Blood). I remember the Buffy episode you're talking about but I found it rather preachy to be honest.
One thing that I always regretted was that Sam's season three storyline of being different, didn't show him being different, it was just a lot of angsting and talk, nothing more. In season 4, Sam wasn't evil or different either, he only made a wrong choice but if both, heaven and hell, are plotting against you, you don't really stand a chance. Nothing evil or out of character for me. So I didn't buy the whole 'Sam is different' approach this time around. I wanted to be SHOWN how he was different. Sam refusing to take the Impala was not a big deal; people grow up and want to have something of their own. Sam sleeping with a hooker was not impressive either since many guys do it. So I think the part of Sam letting Dean get turned was an exciting new turn. It showed that this time it's not just word but that Sam really is different.
I think the reason why I loved the episode so much was that it was the perfect continuation of the previous vampire episodes and a perfect example of not getting lost in a spoof. My favorite scene was when Boris was hitting on Dean, it was so disturbing but hilarious. Sorry for this novel of a comment.

October 26 2010 at 6:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This episode could well be one of my favorite Supernatural episodes. I loved it, and have rewatched it many times. Sam is in an interesting place, Dean is about to lose everything in his life that he holds dear, Samuel turned out to be not completely evil and therefore more three-dimensional, and the monster mystery sounds ominous.

I also thought that the tonal change between the light parody of the beginning to the dark drama after Dean turned was remarkably well done - first lure the audience into thinking one way, then pull the rug out from under them, much as is happening with Dean so far this season. Quite clever.

Jared and Jensen were excellent in this episode. Absolutely awesome and it must be nice for Jared to finally play someone so intriguing.

"There was something overheated about the episode, and tonally much of it didn't feel like it belonged in the 'Supernatural' universe."

It looks like Season 6 is boldly going where SN hasn't gone before. I agree that this was very different from what we have seen before, but that to me is a very refreshing and much-needed change from the predictability that the show had started to suffer from. For the first time in a long time, I am again invested in finding out what happens next, how all the threads of mystery are solved. I was on the edge of my seat in that episode as soon as the Dean-turning scene came on. So far, Season 6 is holding my attention and I am loving the way this is a reset, not a continuation.

October 25 2010 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kay's comment

After reading your comment, you're absolutely right. It was becoming predictable and now I don't know what to expect. Maybe I'm just afraid we're going to lose the old Sam :( lol

October 25 2010 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't understand how you do it, you take everything I'm thinking and put it into words! I love reading your review and find myself waiting for the every week.

Anyway, about the show, I don't know if it's just me but the whole tone of the show has changed. I mean, it is only episode 5, so it's kind of hard to say if I like the season so far, but to be honest it freaks me out alittle. I've been watching the old seasons as a refresher and as I'm watching season 1 and I compare it to this new season, there's a whole new level of distrust and distance between sam & dean. I know its after the apocalypse but I feel like both characters give off a completely different vibe and I find myself missing the old sam & dean. I really want to know what's up with sam, and i never thought of him working for someone, which is very possible. The only thing that gets me is if he knows the cure to these things why is he so willing to sacrifice dean? the old sam would have suggested himself before ever putting dean in danger. Overall I'm really not sure of what to think of this season, but so far it really disturbs me, yet still intrigues me.

October 25 2010 at 8:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Always love your write ups! I really enjoyed this episode...well I found it all a bit hard to watch with the smirk and what Dean was experiencing, but I was carried away by it. And where as it's been described here a few times as rushed, I actually felt like it kept me on the edge of my seat, I'd say fast paced not rushed. I watched this episode with a friend who doesn't like Supernatural or supernatural/scary stuff, and she loved it. She was totally drawn into the brother's dynamic and the question of what is happening with Sam and why did he chose to either betray Dean, or not include him in his plan. The next day we caught up for breakfast and she pumped me for answers on what I thought and what had happened in the past, so though it's been commented here that this show is losing it's way and is becoming too focused on the supernatural elements, my friend took the exact opposite away from this episode. She felt it was focused on the brothers and she was blown away by the drama. She even wants to watch next week to see if we get some answers. I feel like this show has reached a new maturity this season, and though all the action is still taking place in this alternative world, it feels real and the emotion and confusion being felt by Dean and by those of us watching this journey are true and painful. It's been like this for a while of course, as the acting and writing continues to get stronger, but for me, season 6 has stepped up a notch. I am really itching to know what is coming down the line and specifically what is happening with Sam. There's a mystery this season that I don't believe we've really experienced since season 1. I'm loving it and I thought Live Free or Twihard was another very strong outing.

October 25 2010 at 7:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jared is playing this phenomenally rewatching the NotSam & Samuel scene. NotSam, he looks down at 24.57 & you can literally see him start acting to his grandpa. NotSam knows he's been rumbled and is all '....and SCENE'. God that boy is SO good this season. I don't even know this guy. Watch his little look down before he's all 'are you serious?' Boy is PHENOMENAL. Damn Sam. He literally just got me SO excited for what he's gonna do now in like a single moment of a scene. I love that Jared isn't afraid to take the brunt of fan moodiness for him being 'mean to Dean' I just love him loads for that.

I know what you meant about it feeling disjointed this episode. I just hope we don't have to wait till halfway or god forbit a whole season of brotherly conflict and roboSam because Mo I REALLY miss old Sam. He's my guy.

October 25 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Charli's comment

I completely agree. Jared is KILLING me with Not-Quite-Sam. I haven't been this excited about an episode since sometime in season 4. I love what Jared is doing with the character and can't wait to find out what Sam is doing. Eventually I want to see Sam's composure crack -- it will -- but for now focused hunter Sam is intriguing as all hell.

October 26 2010 at 1:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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