I was dreading this episode. Based on the synopsis and the commercials, it promised to be pretty goofy, and it also promised to be yet another overly broad, yuk-it-up comedy episode, playfully nudging me in the ribs with a freaking sledgehammer. But after a couple of strained, pretty awful episodes, this turned out to be a perfectly mediocre, ordinary old-school hour of Supernatural. It’s watchable; nobody worked hard enough on it to make you feel embarrassed over the waste of effort. And it’s a lot funnier than the most recent, blatantly “humorous” episodes. Parts of it are even funny on purpose.
The set-up is actually intriguing. A pretty boy out walking the highway is run over, lies dead in the moonlight, and is discovered the next morning, frozen solid, a bird perched on his torso, pecking out his intestines. Then he gets up and staggers off. Sam and Dean get wind of the disappearing ambulatory corpse and come to town to investigate. Then the dead man shows up in the morgue and is reanimated while they’re in the next room, arguing about whether or not there’s a case here. Interrogated by the brothers, the man explains that he has no memory of his life before he was discovered by hikers on a mountain some seven years ago, but he dies every day, only to be reborn. He tried to exile himself from humanity, living in the woods and hunting for his food, but “a couple of pot growers got nervous about having me so bear their crop and shot, twice. Figured it was time to move on.” “What are you,” Dean asks, “like a real-life Kenny?”
Nope, he’s Prometheus, the dude who stole fire from the gods on Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind. For this, he was cursed, way back in Ye Olde Greek Mythology Times, and the curse is still active; the pieces begin to fall into place when Artemis, Zeus’ daughter, breaks into the Winchesters’ lodgings and tries to snuff him. (Prometheus wakes up, and they skuffle for a bit, then he pins her against a wall and yells, “Who are you!?” into her face. She does not respond. Then Dean, who has been standing two feet away during this exchange, yells at Prometheus, “Who the hell is she?” as if he thought maybe she’d answered the question telepathically. When Supernatural decides to phone it in, it doesn’t mess around.)
Zeus’ daughter isn’t the only girl from Prometheus’ past who comes a-calling. Hayley, the woman who found the unfortunate immortal on that mountain, shows up with a 7-year-old boy in tow, the product of their one time in the sack before the whole “dies every day” thing kind of overwhelmed her. (He suffered a fatal heart attack while they were making love. If you were writing a Supernatural script with a description of this event, and you were phoning it in, what would the next line, most likely from Dean, be? That’s right: “Awkward!”) Worse, now that he’s come of age, the boy has inherited his father’s condition. What to do? The Winchesters hit the books in the Men of Letters’ library and discover a useful journal from an ancient Greek whose name, Dean is delighted to observe, means “dragon penis.” “So,” says Hayley, “you’re hanging our lives on the writings of a dead man whose name is genitalia?” Dean, defensively: “It’s a loose translation.”
That’s a funny line, especially the way Jensen Ackles delivers it, but it’s got nothing on such straight-faced lines as, “It’s gone too far, Zeus.” I like the show’s conception of Zeus in 2013: A trim, gray-bearded, fiftyish dude with a serenely shifty countenance, who looks as if he bathes in Eau de Stephen MacHattie. But the show has no interest in exploring just what the hell the Greek gods have been doing with themselves, lo these many centuries, besides torturing this one poor sap who gave us fire, nor does it care to explain how these characters figure into the larger scheme of a show that’s become increasingly grounded in Christian mythology; Zeus is just another supernatural character who can be plucked at random from the cultural ether and serve as special guest monster for an episode, like Nessie or Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner or the Monster At The End Of This Book. And once he grabs the upper hand, he’s not even all that godlike or classy; after magically hurling other people’s bodies through the air, he settles for punching Prometheus repeatedly in the face, while spouting dialogue lifted from Dirty Harry. (“Don’t pass out on me just yet!”)
Sam defeats him with the weapons of plot convenience and a lucky guess, then settles in for some soul-searching as he sits in the passenger seat next to his brother, who would most likely just as soon he’d sit there quietly rather than talk over the radio. Sam, who has been coughing up blood but hasn’t told Dean about it, expresses doubt that he really can complete his trials unscathed; Dean tells him, sure he can, and promises that he won’t end up like Prometheus. I guess we were supposed to make that connection on our own, but it didn’t occur to me, partly because the scenes of Sam secretly bleeding from the mouth reminded me so much of the scenes of Dana Scully doing the same thing during that season of The X-Files when everything got dark and funereal, and Chris Carter decided to pimp an Emmy for Gillian Anderson by giving her character terminal cancer. That was not my favorite stretch of that show, but of course, it all turned out all right. Probably this will, too, but in the meantime, Supernatural is going away for the better part of a month. I wish they’d gone out on a stronger note before heading off for spring break, but maybe the rest will do them good.
- Before the brothers figure out Prometheus’ identity, Sam ponders on the evidence: “Who do we know that has Jason Bourne fighting skills, dies a lot, and has a history with violent women?” “I don’t know,” says Dean. “You?” That’s almost Darin Morgan-worthy.
- Hey, not only is The CW still running Cult, they’re even still promoting it! I think that’s sweet.