Television Recap: Sam and Dean Winchester Become Heavenly Bodies in Supernatural S5.16 Dark Side of Moon

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SAM AND DEAN ARE KILLED AND GO TO HEAVEN — Ambushed by angry hunters, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) are shot and killed and sent to Heaven.  Castiel (Misha Collins) warns Dean that Zachariah (guest star Kurt Fuller) is looking for them in Heaven so they need to lay low while searching for an angel named Joshua (guest star Roger Aaron Brown) who can help them since he talks directly to God.  While searching for Joshua, the brothers run into some old friends and family members.  Jeff Woolnough directed the episode written by Andrew Dabb & Daniel Loflin

It took me a bit to get to the commentary on Supernatural S5.16 Dark Side of the Moon because there was so much in the episode to think about and form an opinion on. I liked this episode, which was written by Daniel Loflin and Andrew Dabb, but I’m still having a hard time deciding it if was a pivotal episode or just another filler episode. With some of the things we learned about Heaven, about Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) I’m leaning more towards pivotal. Yet I think the things that it ‘filled in’ about these characters for the viewers and for the fans of the series was more important to the progression of the myth arc concerning the apocalypse than any pivot points.

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What I like the most about this episode is how much it really is about Sam and Dean Winchester themselves and not just about their place in the storyline or their fight against their so called destiny to be vessels to Michael and Lucifer. It gives some insight into why, even though both brothers are on ‘team free will’, that certain aspects of their history with each other may lead them, or at least Sam, towards fulfilling that destiny of becoming a vessel.

The opening sequence of this episode showing Dean Winchester lying on a motel room bed seemingly asleep has more than just that interesting visual to focus on. The writers, the director and the set decorators took great care to strew around a lot of empty beer cans and whiskey bottles. This is a very high impact and nonverbal way of showing that Dean Winchester is still in the place of despair that we last saw him at in Supernatural S5.14 My Bloody Valentine and still trying to drink it away. Of course, in my opinion, this visual reminder would have had even more impact if an ‘aired out of order’ episode had not been shoved in between My Bloody Valentine and Dark Side of Moon. But kudos just the same to the writers and production staff for coming up with it.

I liked the idea that the angels would be using the very clever power play of whispering in the ears of other hunters about what Sam did. Setting other hunters against Sam and Dean so as to isolate the brothers from further potential allies and make things even more difficult for them makes sense story-wise. Jensen Ackles’ was particularly on the mark in the very tense moments after Sam is shot and Dean is radiating barely contained rage. I liked the certainty in which Dean knew he would be coming back to life. What I as a viewer hope is that the writer’s of Supernatural don’t drop the ball on this dramatic set up and that they give us a follow through on Dean’s anger and not just have his words be nothing more than a forgotten smoking gun.

The follow through of seeing Dean and Sam confronting Walt (Nels Lennarson) and his buddy, sending the message to them and to the other hunters that killing the Winchester brothers isn’t going to accomplish anything but ticking them off is something that I think needs to be shown.

Some viewers and fans aren’t fond of the writing team of Loflin/Dabb but I think they did an outstanding job with S5.16 Dark Side of the Moon, especially with all the things they managed to put in the episode that were insights about Sam and Dean’s childhoods and how their interactions with each was formed and how it’s coming into play to cause complications and rifts between them. It was interesting that’s Dean’s first happy memory in heaven is taken from a time when he was doing something to make his younger brother Sam (played in this sequence by Colin Ford) happy. Adult Sam’s first happy memory in heaven is taken from a time when he is doing something that makes him happy and makes him feel normal and doesn’t include his brother.

We also learn though that Mary (played in this episode by Samantha Smith) and John Winchester (never seen in the episode) didn’t have the perfect marriage that we were first led to believe and that four year old Dean was left to comfort his mom and try to make things better. Dean’s revelation that their dad was gone for a few days because of an argument puts a possible whole new spin on the pilot when we first meet the Winchester family. It was long assumed that little Dean was just rushing to greet his dad who was coming home from work but now it might be that John was actually returning to the family after being gone because of an argument with Mary.

With the revelations in this episode of how John reacted, especially towards Dean and that the writers once more swung towards the ‘John Winchester as an unstable father’ theme, I was at first left wondering if they were just reducing this once intriguing character to nothing more than a ‘whatever is convenient to the story’ plot device. After thinking about it, I realized that it made John more human. That real people have more than one side to them and can be changeable or seen different from one time to the next. Kudos to the writers and to Kripke for continuing to keep John Winchester interesting and complex.

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Sam’s other happy memory was of the time in which he got the chance to leave his dad and the life of a hunter behind and go to college and live his own life. These snapshots of the Winchester brother’s history gave the viewers a good look at how differently Sam and Dean think and feel about themselves and each other. Jared Padalecki as well was really on the mark in this episode as Sam trying to explain why the felt the way he did back then and coming to the realization that his actions hurt his brother Dean. Having these old differences used by the angels to drive a wedge in between Sam and Dean shows clever storytelling on the part of Loflin/Dabb.

I liked seeing Pamela Barnes (Traci Dinwiddie) and Ash (Chad Lindberg) again and that the characters were used in the storyline in a way that didn’t make them seem like gratuitous appearances (and Pamela got to kiss Dean. She’s pretty lucky for a dead girl). I was impressed by the use of Ash and Pamela to trick the Winchester brothers into letting their guard down and in turn get caught by Zachariah (play with such zestful arrogance by Kurt Fuller).

I like that they found a unique way to keep Castiel (Misha Collins) in play in this episode by having him talking to Dean and Sam through radios and TVs. I liked Castiel telling them that just maybe they might want to find the angel Joshua (Roger Aaron Brown) and find out what the hell God is talking to him about. Which brings me to the fact that I like how the writers and Eric Kripke handled the whole thing with God in this episode. For this storyline they need to address the existence of God but also avoid the cliché of making him come across as the ultimate Deus ex-machina and take away from Sam and Dean. I loved the conversation with Joshua and God’s message to the Winchester brothers to ‘back off’.

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I find it intriguing that God never said for them to give into saying yes, but more like the message was about trying to make them understand that sometimes the only way to win is to deny the battle. It left me interested in the concept that where they are going with this is God telling Sam and Dean that stopping Lucifer is not their fight or their mission and that God will eventually take care of that. That all they are responsible for is to not say yes to either Lucifer or Michael but will the Winchester brothers get the message or will they continue to try to stop Lucifer and put that burden on themselves and possibly make matters worse.

Overall Supernatural S5.16 Dark Side of the Moon was one of the better episodes of season 5 in my opinion and one that I found myself watching more than once or twice since it aired, and that hasn’t happened with too many Supernatural episodes lately for me.

Photos by JACK ROWAND – © 2010 THE CW NETWORK, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED