Television: Apocalypse Why? Commentary On Supernatural S5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight

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“Two Minutes to Midnight” – Bobby (Jim Beaver) sells his soul to help stop the Apocalypse and Dean (Jensen Ackles) goes head-to-head with Death.

That short blurb made it all sound so exciting as Supernatural season 5 came down to one of it’s two last episodes, S5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight. The airing of the episode left this viewer wondering what the heck happened to all the excitement you usually get when the storyline revolves around the coming of a possible apocalypse of Biblical proclamations. Lucifer is loose on the world, the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse are set up to be a major ‘big bad’ to over come and Supernatural season 5 started out full steam into that potential. Yet to this viewer what started out like a scary ride on a rocket, seems to be ending up like a tame ride on the merry-go-round.

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In S5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight, Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki -who got married during the filming of this episode) says to his brother Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), “Remember when we used to just hunt Wendigos and how simple things were?”  Dean replies “not really.”

In that scene lies the crux of what my issue is with how the fifth season of Supernatural has played out from it’s ‘full of potential’ beginning to the tameness it has taken on in what should have been two of the three most exciting episodes of the season. It’s seems pretty telling of how badly the whole storyline has been watered down when watching the Winchesters take on the task of killing a Wendigo back in Season one was a lot more fraught with danger, difficulty and suspense than it was for the Winchester brothers to off the supposedly powerful Horseman known as Pestilence (played by Matt Frewer).

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However just when I as a viewer was thinking that the scariness had been taken out of the Horsemen as a threat to the Winchester’s in S5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight, a scared but determined Dean sat down to have pizza with Death (Julian Richings) in Chicago. First off the casting of Julian Richings was sheer genius. Second of all Sera Gamble showed us that, while they may have watered down the overall storyline, the writers of Supernatural were still capable of creating individual character interactions that were brilliantly executed.

Chicago, with it’s rich and bloody history of syndicate crime wars and mafia dons was the backdrop for an ingenious play on the ‘making you an offer you can’t refuse’ with Death as the ultimate intellectualized version of a Mafia Don. The scene was extremely well written with an intriguing concept of Death being even older than God and even God was not above being taken in death. Both Ackles and Richling played their characters in a understated manner, filled with quiet intensity that only lent to the power of the deal that Dean was making with Death itself. 

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Dean wasn’t the only one to take risks in this episode and Jensen Ackles wasn’t the only one who got shine in it. Sam Winchester was faced with the task of leading the team to stop the whole ‘zombie apocalypse’ by destroying shipments of the deadly Croatian virus and Jared Padalecki took center stage in action hero mode. While Ackles’ character of Dean was in conversation with Death, Padalecki’s Sam was involved in a more physical confrontation with demons and humans infected with the Croatian virus. Writer Sera Gamble and actor Jared Padalecki showed viewers once more why Sam Winchester can be a natural born leader when he needs to be. As Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver) tells Dean at the end of S5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight, Sam has darkness in him, but he has a lot of good and maybe he’s strong enough to take on Lucifer and win.

Last week, I wrote about how I thought that the character of crossroads demon Crowley (played by Mark Sheppard) worked in the kind of con artist type role in which the character of Bela Talbot (Lauren Cohan) failed.  In S5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight, Sera Gamble and Mark Sheppard continue to bring life to Crowley and make him an interesting, and to this viewer, enjoyable recurring character. Crowley’s dry wit and ‘interpretative ways’ of helping the Winchester’s and Bobby Singer in the battle to get Lucifer back in the box is the kind of imaginative characterization that Bela got cheated out of. I still say it was because the writers were too busy trying to write her as ‘the hot chick who can outsmart the guys’ and shoehorning in so called ‘sexual tension’ with Dean that they forgot to just write a good character.

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Overall I still thought that S5.21 Two Minutes to Midnight lacked the kind of punch a second to the last episode of an action series should have. I am still left with the feeling that the writers and producers of Supernatural just didn’t allow season five and the whole ‘Lucifer and the Four Horsemen on the loose’ to have the potential it could have had. Yet we still got a lot more character moments along the way in season five that we didn’t quite get in season four. Moments like the one in S5.21 when we see Bobby come to the realization that Crowley has restored Singer’s ability to walk. The actors in the scene all conveyed the power of that moment. Seeing Castiel (Misha Collins) coming to the realization that he is pretty much just a human now and seeing him struggling with coming to terms of not having anymore “angel mojo”.

However as compelling as this aspect is for the character of Castiel and seeing Collins play it to perfection, I sincerely hope they don’t leave Castiel that way for season six. I as a viewer don’t really want him to be just another human. I like the angel Castiel a lot better.

So now we move onto the season five finale, S5.22 Swan Song, airing on May 13th at 9PM on the CW Network. It’s going to be a showdown like Sam and Dean have never faced before. Let’s hope it lives up to that potential.

Photo: Michael Courtney/The CW ©2010 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.