This episode seems to be quite a divisive one. For those who miss the glory days of season 1 through 3, it’s a Godsend. For those who prefer forward momentum and arc heavy episodes, it seems to hit all the wrong notes. I can definitely see why it’s causing that type of divide. So many of the plot elements were taken directly from the first season, but with a rather strange modern technology twist to them. It also feels like our characters hit the rewind button a bit and we’re being re-introduced to their character traits that most of us already have a pretty solid understanding of. If ‘back to basics’ was what you want, then this was probably nearly perfect for you but, if you can’t tell, I’m the other type of person and I wasn’t exactly thrilled with it.
The classic ghost hunting formula is what got a lot of people hooked on the show in the first place, so I can’t fault the show for wanting to go back there on occasion. In fact, if it weren’t for the other parts of the episode that got to me, I might have actually enjoyed it as the fun Monster-of-the-Week episode that it was intended to be. We got the return of the EMF meter, ectoplasm, and a cold chill in the air whenever a ghost is present. We even got a car moving on its own just like Baby in the pilot episode. I thought all of these things were great, but pretty much everything else bothered me to some degree.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but this episode also seems strangely out of touch with how modern technology is used. Do college students really say “hashtag” in a non-sarcastic way? Do they really say “dude, I just retweeted your tweet?” The behavior just feels a bit forced. Technology and social media have become such an integral part of my life that having it constantly shoved in my face and brought to my attention that it exists is very jarring. I’m about six years removed from college, though, so if this is really the type of behavior that exists among college students nowadays please excuse this old person’s ignorance.
The characterization also feels a bit forced to me. Dean falls surprisingly flat, which is odd because he’s gone through so much these past few seasons and has had such strong character development episode after episode. There seems to be only three main character traits that got pounded into our heads over and over again, though, and I feel like that didn’t do him justice. Dean likes to check out women. Dean is a sloppy eater. Dean is out of touch with modern technology. If you didn’t get that the first time, they remind you ten more times just to be sure you got the message. That last point is even somewhat disputable. He does seem to prefer older things when it comes to music and style, but he’s also a quick learner and had pretty decent engineering capabilities by creating his own EMF reader. I suppose the argument could be made that the EMF reader was also using older technology, but his ineptitude seems like a bit of a stretch.
Sam fares a bit better, though. Having a ‘back to basics’ Sam worked out surprisingly great. The strongest points of Sam’s character are his ability to empathize with people and his intelligence. He showed both of them in spades here. He was also a badass, which is always a wonderful bonus. Having smart caring Sam be more prominent than he has been in so many episodes this season was refreshing. The only downside was that his intelligence often came at the Dean’s expense. Remove that part of the story, and he was pretty damn perfect. It makes me remember why I love him so much.
While I do tend to like story arc focused episodes, I do have the ability to enjoy MOTW episodes as well. The forced nature of so many character traits and behaviors made it impossible to enjoy the good points, though. The plot could have been quite fun, actually. It was a tragic waste of potential.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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