One of my complaints last week was that it took to long to get to the episode’s Monster of the Week. (Or Monsters, I guess.) That complaint isn’t really an issue in “Slash Fiction,” which opens with a pair of Leviathan wearing Sam and Dean Winchester meat-suits. The Bros of Evil hold up a bank, force all the employees and customers into a vault, and then, after making sure they’re being filmed by the security camera, they kill everyone. It’s a solid cold open; there’s no indication at first that these aren’t the real deal good guys, so it’s a mild shock when they open fire. Admittedly, most of us watching the show probably saw the trailer for this week’s episode, or read a teaser about it, or saw something online, so we were on our guard for villainous doppelgangers. Thankfully, “Slash” has you covered there too. The bank robbery-murder is entertaining whether you’re expecting or not (in that it’s effectively intense without being overly horrifying), but the episode quickly shows its cards about who these “clones” are, and what they’re planning. The suspense here isn’t about a mystery. It’s about how Sam and Dean are going to deal with once again being two of the most wanted men in America.
Turns out, this isn’t the hardest problem they’ve had to face. “Slash” was in some ways as scattershot story-wise as last week’s episode. The pieces didn’t quite fit snug together, and the ending, despite a pair of sudden murders, was maybe too convenient in the long run. Having to deal with a nation of FBI agents, cops, and concerned citizens hunting them might not have made for happy fun times with Sam and Dean, but it’s a complex enough threat that it maybe should’ve taken more than single episode and one overly friendly (and soon to be dead) sheriff to clean up. That’s something I’ve noticed come up a few times this season. While the Leviathan are clearly shaping up to be the season’s Big Bad (tonight, we met Dick Roman, the smooth talking, demon-loathing head of the clan), other seemingly insurmountable problems have arisen and been dispatched with surprising, and somewhat disappointing, quickness. It takes the fun out of things a little. I want the WInchesters to win out in the end, but it’s more entertaining if they have to work at it a bit, y’know?
Once our heroes realize they’re being framed, Bobby sends Sam and Dean to check in with a paranoid survivalist he knows, while Bobby himself stays in his new home and tries to figure out a way to kill Chett, their captive, temporarily helpless monster chum. The survivalist, Frank, gets some good lines in, but in retropsect, his only real contribution to the plot is eating up a chunk of the running time before we get down to the real business of the episode. Sure, he offers the Winchesters some helpful tips about staying hidden from the government, but given how little either brother spends actually hiding, I’m not sure this was a useful use of resources. Bobby sending them off makes it sound like they need to get trained in the art of laying low, but really, they’ve been doing that for years. I can see ways this segment could have worked in the episode as a whole; if Frank had showed up for the final fight at the police station, he would’ve been a far more useful character. (And really, while Kevin McNally did a fine job in the role, why bring Michael Hogan in for what amounts to little more than a walk on role? Unless they intend to bring him back as a Leviathan at some point.) As is, it’s fine, but sort of lazy.
More fine, but equally lazy: Dean lip-synching to Air Supply. (I just realized the “fine” could be taken different ways. Have fun with that one.) Now, don’t get me wrong, it was damn funny, but it went on longer than it really needed to, and served no story purpose whatsoever. It was more like a beat that should’ve been left for the deleted scenes section on this season’s DVD set. I appreciate the attempts to lighten up the Winchesters, and there were quite a few good gags throughout the episode. But that doesn’t take away from the meandering writing. Supernatural can do standalone eps and it can do serialized, but it seems to struggle more with the latter. While this was technically standalone, it was closely connected with this season’s larger concerns, and to make that work, there needs to be a certain level of momentum. "Slash" was stuck for the most part in low gear.
It was fun seeing Sheriff Jody back, and apparently she’s taken quite the shine to Bobby. That’s nice; fingers crossed she doesn’t get possessed or murdered or exploded or whatever. The main reason she’s in the episode is to inadvertently help Bobby figure out a way to kill (or at least significantly disable) ole Chett. It’s a chemical found in industrial cleaner, and it melts the bad guys quite nicely; sort of a cleaning-off-the-stain-on-reality kind of deal. It’s a bit of a let down to see the Levithan have such an easy to access weakness, although clearly, there had to be some way of putting them down. And I suppose it’s a nice change of pace that the silver bullet isn’t some impossibly obscure artifact. Yay science, and all that. Bobby gets the information to Dean just in time for Dean to save his and Sam’s life in a police station, although not before Sam learns the horrible truth about Amy from Dean’s double. “Slash” ends on the confrontation we knew was coming, the same confrontation it seems like has been played out half a dozen times before on this show. Sam and Dean break up, which I guess would be mean something if we didn’t know they’d be back together again next week. That was the real problem with Amy’s death—the knowledge that, in the context of this show, the event would never be treated with the gravity it deserved. Mainly because if we acknowledged how screwed up the murder was, if we really looked at it straight on, it would mean breaking Dean’s character. But Amy was evil, you say! She was a monster! She was a mother protecting her child, I think, and sure, she was killing people, but she limited herself to criminals who preyed on the innocent and weak—which, come to think of it, is what Sam and Dean do. Only they do it because they can't quit doing it… oh. Right.
I don’t really want to go too far down that road, though, because I’m not sure I’ll find my way back to liking this show. And I do want to keep liking this show, warts and all. So I’ll just be grateful that the band-aid has been ripped off, and expect that Sam and Dean will find some way to be bros again in the next couple of weeks. “Slash” had its moments, and it benefited from keeping things light-ish. But it felt like a place-holder. Sam and Dean are no longer wanted men (which doesn’t really make sense, but whatever), we’ve now met Dick Roman, who seems like a decent Big Bad, and we know he doesn’t want to work with Crowley. Oh, the good guys have a weapon against the bad guys. That will probably be important later on.
- It was a nice touch that the evil Sam and Dean made pop culture references while committing horrible crimes. I don’t think the real Winchesters would ever massacre a diner full of people, but if they did, they’d probably pull a couple quotes from Pulp Fiction first.
- The name "Dick Roman" has to be a joke, right?
- Missed opportunity: I didn't notice a single Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey joke.
- I wanted to enjoy the evil Sam and Dean-talk-about-the-real-Sam and Dean scene (I wish the episode had done more with switching between the two pairs), but while there were some good lines, the whole “Let’s berate the Winchesters for being so damn mopey” line is played out. Either let them be mopey, or embrace the mope. Stop drawing attention to it if you’re not going to resolve it.
- “Little tip from a pro: there’s no such thing as a random series of robbery murders by your evil twins.”
- “Swayze always gets a pass!”
- “Aw Bobby, you are ten pounds of sad in a five pound bag.”
- “I’m not your brother. But I am Dean adjacent.”