The King of Hell in my trunk and an angel riding shotgun

Welcome back, Sam and Dean! It’s been too long, boys.

The ninth season (ninth!) of Supernatural wasted no time in its premiere episode. Several new threads were laid out for what promises to be an exciting season. I only hope as we dive into a new season that the writers have the focus and the show has the budget to fulfill the promise set forth in “I Think I’m Going to Like It Here.”

Let’s get into that promise, starting with the images we see via news reports of a worldwide meteor shower: thousands of angels have fallen. They’re confused, they’re pissed, and most of them blame Castiel. Having that many angels out there opens up an exciting universe for this season to explore. I hope the encounters Dean had in this episode are the first of many we get this season. Judging by the new title card, it appears this will be the “angel” season of Supernatural. I’m excited to see Heaven and its inner-workings explored more this season, and I hope this will lead the show to address the absentee God issue its struggled with since Season 5, when the Winchesters were supposed to meet God but the writers backed out and gave us Joshua instead.

Ezekiel’s possession of Sam is the second biggest development to come out of the premiere. While I’m tired of seeing the Winchesters at Death’s door (literally) on such a regular basis, I’m genuinely excited about this storyline. We don’t know Ezekiel’s agenda but he appears to have good intentions based on his actions in this episode. Then again, when has an angel ever acted without an ulterior motive on this show? I don’t think Ezekiel has nefarious intent the same way Metatron did, but I do think he has a plan that includes using Sam as his vessel. Say, fighting against Heaven’s new landlord once he and Sam regain their strength?

I’m not crazy about the idea of Castiel as a human, but I’m willing to give this storyline a shot. The writers have had no idea what to do with Castiel since he became the new god, so my hope is that this arc will allow the writers to give Castiel a purpose once more. He sure seems determined to make a difference and I think that will manifest in two ways: 1) helping angels adjust to human life 2) hunting with Sam and Dean. The idea of Castiel as a hunter was floated last season and I think that thread will be revisited now that Castiel is sans-powers.

In addition to setting up this season’s major storylines, this episode also felt like a reunion tour. Death and Bobby showed up, and Crowley kinda made an appearance. I loved Death’s “Well played, my boy” during his conversation with Sam because it encapsulates the respect all beings have for what the Winchesters have accomplished. Bobby reiterated that message to Sam and urged him to let go, once and for all. While it was nice to see Bobby again, I hope this is his last appearance for a while. It’s difficult to appreciate his great legacy when he’s popping up multiple times per season.

The previews for next week make it appear the conflict with Abaddon is taking center stage. I’m happy to see that storyline revisited given the way Season 8 pulled a switcheroo at the last second, but I hope it doesn’t take up more than two episodes. I enjoy watching the demons scramble with Crowley in custody; I just don’t care for Alaina Huffman, the actress playing Abaddon. She was a guest star on Smallville and fails to bring any real gravitas to her roles. The less we see of her this season, the better.

One final note: has Dean not learned how idiotic it is to keep secrets from Sam? Does he think Sam is going to respond well after learning that he’s been lied to yet again? This show has made the answer clear time and time again: NO.

Line of the week

"I’ve got the King of Hell in my trunk." - Dean

Catch the rest of my Supernatural recaps this season over at TV Blend. I’ve been recapping for that site since the beginning of Season 7. Stop by and share your thoughts on the website or on Facebook! 

All bad things have come to an end

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Breaking Bad is the greatest show I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. I can’t say it’s the greatest show ever because I haven’t watched The Wire or The Sopranos. But of the shows I’ve watched from beginning to end, none soared higher or burned brighter than Breaking Bad.

The best thing about this show is that it’s gotten significantly better every season. There were no disappointing seasons, or to put it another way, no seasons you’d tell a friend to skip when they’re about to start binge-watching on Netflix. That’s quite an accomplishment. Even a great show like Friday Night Lights (the best show I’d ever seen start to finish before Breaking Bad) had that albatross of a second season.

But not Breaking Bad. Just when you thought there was no topping Gus getting half his face blown off, there was the train episode. Or the shootout in the desert. Or the knife fight in the White household.

These last eight episodes in particular have moved at hyper speed, leaving us as the audience to clutch the sides of our seats and gasp for breath. The three hours preceding this finale were exhausting, excruciating and exhilarating. “Ozymandias” might very well be the best hour of television I’ve ever seen.

Maybe that’s why I found the finale slightly disappointing. After the complete unpredictability of the past seven episodes, the stage seemed set for a chaotic showdown full of ricin and M60 bullets. We got both those things, but the chaos was missing.

The episode panned out exactly how most of us expected it would. Jesse escaped after killing Todd. Lydia died. Uncle Jack and the Nazis fell under a barrage of bullets the size of soup cans. This was Heisenberg’s masterpiece, a final pitch-perfect plan that went off without a hitch.

Well, expect for Walt taking a bullet in the stomach. But with the cancer looming large, we knew Walt was going to die in this episode. His life was on a countdown timer. He wasn’t surviving his showdown with the Nazis and he knew it. We knew it, too. We weren’t sure how exactly he’d die, but his death was coming by hour’s end.

I expected a finale that barreled into the station like the bat out of hell that was unleashed at the beginning of this half-season. That locomotive took off at warp speed once Hank found Leaves of Grass and paused only for a moment last week to show Walt hit his lowest point. I thought for sure that out-of-control train had started back up and would plow through its final destination like a force of nature.

Instead we got a slow, methodical victory lap around the Breaking Bad universe. Hell, even Badger and Skinny Pete got a send-off in this episode! The only element that truly surprised me was Elliot and Gretchen’s role in Walt’s plan. I never really thought Walt would kill the couple; I just didn’t see them serving as the money launderers for Walt.

There were some uncharacteristic lapses in logic that took me out of the episode as I was watching it. Who would believe that a reporter from the New York Times was calling from a payphone in the desert? Furthermore, you’re telling me the Nazis wouldn’t check the trunk of Walt’s car, or better yet, make him walk inside the compound? He could’ve had a bomb back there and just driven straight through the house where Jack was waiting! I wouldn’t have thought it strange had the Nazis not spent two minutes thoroughly frisking Walt’s person, only to completely ignore his vehicle.

I applaud the show for having the balls to kill Walt and definitively end the story. There was no last-minute salvation for Walt, no new life awaiting him as a lumberjack. I also liked that Jesse survived. He now has a shot at redemption, although it will have to happen off-screen.

Walt was too far gone for redemption but he at least took ownership for the chaos he’d created. He set things right in his world and then shuffled off this mortal coil before the police could apprehend him. His status as a legendary crime lord will surely grow after this final development. A house full of dead neo-Nazis. A super lab busted and blue meth off the streets for good. Heisenberg dead, the final shot we see of him reminiscent of the crawl space scene that marked Walt’s transformation into his monstrous alter ego.

I enjoyed the Breaking Bad finale tremendously. It just didn’t floor me like the preceding episodes did. Vince Gilligan had the chance for a slam dunk and he settled for a layup.

But much like it’s Wallaby-wearing antihero, this show secured its fate long before the final hour unfolded.

The greatest show I’ve ever seen is no more. Long live the king.

Thoughts on the Dexter finale

A lumberjack.

That’s where we’re going to end the tale of the Bay Harbor Butcher?

Not with Dexter in custody, or strapped to an electric chair, or floating toward the ocean floor with his sister?

As the eighth and final season of Dexter went out with a whimper, I found myself coming back to the same thought:

The second season of Dexter should have been its final season.

This is not an original idea by me (I think IGN floated it during its second season review) but looking back, that was the season we deserved as this once-great show sliced its way toward the end.

Imagine the thrill of watching Special Agent Lundy circle around Dexter like a hungry vulture. Picture Debra, scrambling to keep her brother safe by sabotaging the efforts of a man she loved.

You could even keep the LaGuerta murder storyline intact. It would only add to Debra’s inner turmoil. Can you imagine the performance Jennifer Carpenter would have turned in with material like that?

Best of all, think about Sergeant Doakes (introduced in Season 6 in place of Mike Anderson) closing in on Dexter like he did in the second season. That game of cat and mouse, with Lundy circling above it all, would have made for some of the best television in recent memory.

The ending we deserved wasn’t Dexter with a beard. It wasn’t Dexter on a beach with Hannah and Harrison. This show was about a serial killer whose #1 rule is “Don’t get caught.” The only appropriate ending was Dexter being caught by police and having his secret exposed to the world. At long last, the mask would fall away and the Bay Harbor Butcher would be exposed to the world.

Somewhere along the way (looking at you, Season 5) the writers lost sight of what made Dexter tick. The guy is a monster, plain and simple. We enjoy watching him and even rooting for him to succeed because we are sophisticated television viewers who can enjoy a good story about a psychopath without becoming one ourselves.

Would we enjoy watching the cuffs finally slapped on Dexter’s wrists? No. But that’s what makes great television so effective. It forces us to feel things we don’t want to feel. Great television makes us uncomfortable. It makes us squirm. It hits us like a punch in the gut.

I felt nothing watching the final scene of Dexter.

After investing in this show for eight seasons, was it all for nothing?

We’ll never get to see the second season take the place of this anemic eighth season, but we can imagine how glorious it would have been. And that says everything about how Dexter ended.