You know what's never not funny? Dudes taking care of a baby. Seriously, that is hilarious. They're dudes… and they're taking care of… a baby. How are you not getting this? Picture the dudes. They're, y'know, guys and stuff. They don't get all this maternal crap, because they're men, and they're not, y'know, programmed like the ladies for kid-taking-care-of. And there's this baby. And the baby is super cute, and it makes all these weird facial expressions, and it has the habit of crying at the worst possible time. Being a baby and all, who knows why it cries? Also, sometimes, it poops. Come on. Give in to the laughter.
Looks like I may have been overly optimistic last week. "Two and a Half Men" isn't a complete hackjob, and thankfully, we spend very little time in the episode dealing with Sam and Dean Guttenberging it up. Plus, the baby jokes, lame as they are, do lead somewhere thematically. That doesn't make them funny, though, so there was some cringing during tonight's episode, but that's not why I'm worried I may have been overly optimistic. A couple pockets of bad humor I can deal with, especially if there are monsters involved. What I'm less happy about is how this season is handling its trickiest topics, namely Sam's resurrection, Samuel and family, and Dean's struggles to balance a home life and a hunter's mission. In the season premiere, there were hints that these might not be dealt with as effectively as possible, but I was willing to overlook those hints and give the show the benefit of the doubt. Now I'm less sure. "Two" is entertaining enough, but it lacks much in the way of urgency, and too many character conflicts arose from behavior that was more writer-dictated than organic.
It doesn't help that the plot, which starts like your standard Supernatural murder mystery, fizzles out by the end. In the cold open, a mother tries to hide her baby from an unseen attacker, only to be brutally murdered in the same manner as her husband. (Is anyone else getting sick of this kind of scene? I'm not holding Supernatural directly accountable, but it in the years I've been watching genre shows, I've seen strangers get killed in the first five minutes of hundreds, if not thousands, of episodes of television. It's supposed to hook your interest, but these days, it just means I have to wait longer before the characters I actually care about show up.) Sam investigates what turns out to be a series of parent-deaths and babynappings, and quickly figures out that all the families that were attacked had gone to the same security company. Samuel finds another family which hasn't been killed yet that also used that company, Sam pays them a visit, and they're already dead; but Sam does arrive in time to fight off a security guard (who bleeds smoke when cut with a silver knife) and save the baby.
Here's where Dean gets involved. So, last week, I said I was happy that the show wasn't immediately writing off Lisa and Ben? I regretted that this week. The scenes between Dean and his adopted family exist here only to get us to what we've known was coming ever since we saw Dean visiting Lisa at the end of last season: Dean's triumphant return to hunting. There's lip service paid throughout the episode to Dean's desire to avoid turning into his father, and how he doesn't know how to protect the people he cares about from the life he's been living. It's not terrible drama, and Ackles plays it well, but it all feels painfully moot. Dean is in an impossible situation, but it's also an irrelevant situation, because we don't have a show if he isn't out with his brother killing bad guys. There are ways to play with this that don't completely waste our time, and "Two" tries its damnedest to make Dean's position connect to the series' themes about the sacrifices made by the men (and occasionally women) who keep the monsters at bay, but it's all pretty flat. Lisa gives him permission to go play with Sam, and then come back home for some family time when he gets lonely, and it's too easy. There's nothing wrong with the Winchesters being happy, but Lisa isn't a character here so much as a series of wish fulfillments.
As for the baby plot—we get some new lore about "alphas," the first creature from which all other creatures of that kind sprang. (Those of you having Blade Trinity flashbacks right now, deep breaths.) So these babies are all half-monster, and the sire is the shape-shifter alpha, who's been going around pretending to be husbands. (Ah, X-Files flashback, that's much nicer.) The Alpha Shifter is just trying to get all his kids back. There's something interesting in that, or could be down the line—Supernatural has occasionally considered the rights of monsters, and while the Alpha is a rapist/murderer, those kids are innocent, and what could possibly be done with them? Sam insists on bringing the baby he finds back to Samuel and the others (well, after he and Dean hang out with the kid for a while; not sure why he didn't just bring the baby home straight off), and Samuel decides to adopt the infant into the family, which Dean has a problem with. Now, it's easy to side with Dean here, because we know him, and because we also know that there's something strange going on with Samuel. Also, Mitch Pileggi is creepy looking. But Dean doesn't know what we know, and he's sudden paranoia here doesn't really make sense. There are ways to justify it, but while Dean mentions that he's still worried about how Samuel (and Sam) came back from the dead, it plays out more like Dean is paranoid because that's what we assume he'd be. That's what always happens in these situations: Sam has new friends, so Dean is going to be suspicious. It makes Dean look like a dick, and it makes the Campbells more irritating then they need to be.
Then the Alpha shows up, grabs his kid (inexplicably not murdering Sam or Dean, despite the reputation the Winchesters have in the monster community), and that's—it. We learn about Alphas, but the episode resolution focuses entirely on Dean getting his groove back and putting the Monster Mobile back into service. It's great to see the car again, and I'll be happy to have the brothers back on the road, as they should be, but too much of this episode was just hitting the numbers and not following through on any actual math. This could be leading somewhere, but until it does, it's hard not to get impatient at all the pit stops.
- Ben isn't very interesting, is he. Which is a shame—he was distinctive enough in his first appearance on the show. (When he was played by a different actor, I believe.)
- When shape-shifters showed up in the "Previously on" segment at the start of the show, I assumed that meant Samuel and his crew were shifters. I was wrong, but it's still surprisingly spoiler-y.
- "Either way, it's baby stew. Which is bad."
- "You got something to say? No? All right, you just stand there and think at me."
- "You can't Angelina Jolie a shapeshifter." I think this is a reference to The Changeling, but I didn't get it till just now.
- Alpha or not, he has a stupid habit of shifting to look like people who're in the same room with him. I'm not sure that's really a tactically advantage. "Don't shoot, it's Samuel! Oh wait, I'm Samuel. Yeah, you can go ahead and shoot."