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Episode 4x07 - "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester"

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  • Episode 4x07 - "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester"

    Can I just say here: "Samhain" is pronounced kinda like "Sow-in" (with the first syllable similar to "cow") or "Sahv-een", not "Sam-hayne".

    Gosh. Even Beauty And The Beast got that right twenty years ago...
    "Occasionally, I'm callous and strange..." - Willow Rosenberg, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

  • #2
    Originally posted by Rowan Hawthorn View Post
    Can I just say here: "Samhain" is pronounced kinda like "Sow-in" (with the first syllable similar to "cow") or "Sahv-een", not "Sam-hayne".

    Gosh. Even Beauty And The Beast got that right twenty years ago...
    Huh. That's so funny. My friend who is totally deaf said the same thing! I didn't believe him because well... apparently I'm stupid.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Rowan Hawthorn View Post
      Can I just say here: "Samhain" is pronounced kinda like "Sow-in" (with the first syllable similar to "cow") or "Sahv-een", not "Sam-hayne".
      That was my immediate reaction to the mispronunciation, as well, having studied Gaelic.

      But it is easy for us to pretend that they were simply referring to a demon called Sam Hayn rather than the festival Samhain

      And other than the mispronunciation, this was another outstanding episode, full of intriguing mytharc development for us to chew over. We got brothers united against the wanna-smite angelic forces, we got Sam face to face with Castiel for the first time and both of their reactions, we got Dean encouraging Sam not to lose faith, we got to see Castiel looking less sure of himself when not one-on-one with Dean for the first time, we got Sam pushed into using his powers again (which of course we all knew he would) and Dean seeing him doing it - and resolutely coming down on his side against the angels...

      Plus classic rock IDs

      And lots more that I'll have to come back later to discuss...

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      • #4
        And the greatness that is S4 continues! I kind of expected a Sera Gamble episode next, so finding an episode of yet another new writer came as a surprise, and it looks like another promising addition to the writer’s staff as well. Julie Siege wrote a wonderful script for It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester that put us right back in the middle of the mytharc and dealt with questions of faith, shades of grey and the brotherly unity in the face of doom. Excellent!

        Admittedly the episode starts out very slow as an ordinary MotW casefile and I wasn’t too thrilled when it became clear that the episode focuses on witches again, because the last episode about witches wasn’t exactly one of my favourites. In the end though I enjoyed the subplot around the warlock and his sister and the twists and turns the story took in revealing the perpetrators. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised that they connected the MotW plot to the mytharc, thus giving it indefinitely more relevance. Well done!

        Dean: "If you gonna smite this whole town, then you gonna have to smite us with it, because we two are not leaving."

        The slow beginning of the episode is easily forgiven, because as soon as Castiel and Uriel enter the stage, the episode takes off. The first clash in goals between the brothers and the angels was just as exciting as I imagined it to be. The dilemma of sacrificing few for the good of many has already been approached a couple of times in the show and Dean always firmly stood against that plan of action. It’s kind of ironic that the angels make the same suggestion here that we heard the last time from a demon, namely Ruby in Jus In Bello, even if it is on a massively higher scale.

        The notion of 'seeing the bigger picture' is always highly ambivalent: On the one hand one might trade the future for the present by refusing to consider such a sacrifice, but on the other hand, who is to decide where to draw the line? When does the sacrifice outbalance the gain of it? Is a sacrifice really justified because God demanded it? Neither Dean nor Sam are in the position to judge that and so it’s no surprise that they follow their gut instinct instead of just blindly following an order. While Castiel delivered a low blow when he reminded Dean of his own obedience towards John, he also underestimated Dean if he thought he would guilt him into complying with that statement. Dean might have acknowledged the authority of his father but beyond that he defies authorities on a regular basis and while Sam might have more respect for authority figures in general, he has a track record of being rebellious and stubborn and following his own path.

        I loved Dean’s readiness to throw himself (and his brother) bodily in between the townspeople and the angels, wagering his own life against the angels’ willingness to risk the wrath of their father. Just last episode we saw that one of Dean’s biggest fears is to be thrown back into hell in case of his death, and Castiel already threatened him with that very action for being disrespectful, still he doesn’t hesitate, well knowing that there is nothing he can do in case his bluff fails. Dean’s willingness to put his own life on the line for the sake of others is one of his most consistent and admirable character traits.

        Sam: "I mean, this is God? And heaven? And this is what I’ve been praying to?"
        Dean: "Just because there’s a couple of bad apples doesn’t mean the whole barrel is rotten. (…) Don’t give up on this stuff, is all I’m saying."


        We also finally got the first encounter between Sam and Castiel and Sam’s utter awe and reverence was heart-wrenching, especially given especially given the fact that he already knows that the angel didn't approve of him. For a moment I was afraid that Castiel would refuse to take Sam’s hand, as a sign of rejection of what Sam stands for, but maybe his hesitation was more a sign of uncertainty of how to react to this very human gesture. When he graps Sam’s hand in both of his own and greets him serenely, I didn’t sense any condescendence from Castiel’s side, but maybe a cautious acceptance. It’s interesting to note in this context that in the end scene with Dean, Castiel, unlike Uriel, does not condemn Sam for using his powers in a moment of need. It gives me hope that despite his warning to Dean about taking Sam down, if Dean doesn’t stop him, Castiel does care about both Winchesters and maybe is even willing to trust Sam or at least Dean’s faith in his brother’s goodness.

        Anyway, Sam’s reverence soon turns into disbelief and shock when the angels announce that they will smite the whole town as a pre-emptive strike against the witch, disregarding the innocent townspeople as regrettable casualties. It severely shatters his conviction that the arrival of angels signals a turn to the better for them and makes him question his faith. It’s sadly ironic that actually meeting an angel puts Sam’s faith to the test, while for Dean it marked a turn-around in his beliefs, accepting the existence of God and angels, even if he has no illusions about their nature.

        Dean giving Sam a gentle big brother pep talk about faith was probably my favourite scene in this episode. Dean knows that his brother needs his faith, now more than ever. With the darkness within Sam, which might easily consume his brother, Dean needs Sam to hold fast to goodness and righteousness and his faith is an important factor in that. The faith that there is a greater moral instance, a balancing force to the evil in the universe, presumably not only offers a moral guideline for Sam, but also allows him to believe in his own salvation. But when even the supposedly good higher powers blur the lines between right and wrong, Sam is thrown back on himself, his own conscience the only guideline that is to be had. That’s in itself not necessarily a bad thing, but the loss of the faith in his own redemption might.

        Sam: "So, this demon is pretty powerful. Might take more than the usual weapons."
        Dean: "Sam, no! You’re not using your psychic whatever."


        It was to be expected that sooner rather than later Sam’s decision to stop using his powers would be put to the test and we all predicted the results of that. I love that Sam opted for honesty right from the start here and talked to Dean beforehand about the possibility that he might need to use his powers to stop Samhain. While Dean’s reaction to his statement was predictable, Sam didn’t shy away from that discussion and tried to get Dean’s approval in case push comes to shove and that made me happy. Sam bringing that topic up all by himself also shows though, that using his powers was on the forefront of his mind right from the start, despite his promise to not access them anymore and it’s clear that as long as he has these powers there will always be circumstances where using his powers will be the easiest solution.

        It has to be said though, that in this particular case Ruby’s knife actually was the more logical choice, since the human host was already dead and the knife would have killed the demon instead of just exorcising it back to hell. If Sam had used the element of surprise when Samhain tried to hit him with his 'demon ray' and charged at the demon with the knife right away, instead of engaging him in a hand-to-hand combat that he was bound to lose, he might have been able to avoid using his powers.

        Anyway, once Sam’s situation turned hopless he had a decision to make and he didn’t hesitate, and who could blame him? As Sam defends himself later to Uriel, the price for not using his powers outweighed the personal risks by far for him. He was between a rock and a hard place and really had no other viable option than to use the only weapon available to him. The exorcism scene was nerve-wrecking to say the least. It had nothing of the easy, headache-free exorciscms of the normal low level demons we have seen him execute so far. This demon was powerful and ancient and clearly pushed Sam to his limits. I honestly feared for Sam when he started bleeding and clutched his head in pain and I guess only time will tell if this particular exorcism might have repercussions in the long run.

        Dean watching his brother, shell-shocked and frozen to the spot was heart-breaking. When Sam seeks eye contact with Dean for a moment, while he is trying to keep Samhain in check, I think he pleads for Dean to understand. Dean’s devastated expression when the exorcism is over and Sam hesitantly raising his eyes, fear and uncertainty of his brother’s reaction shining through, was another heart-wrenching moment. Sam did what had to be done, but he broke his promise to Dean in the process, and at first I was afraid that this would deepen the chasm between the brothers, but instead I think that seeing Sam here opened a new layer of understanding between them, at least that’s what I read from Dean’s words in the end scene.

        Dean: "I don’t know what’s gonna happen when these seals are broken. Hell, I don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. What I do know is that this, here, these kids, the swings, the trees, all of it, it’s still here because of my brother and me!"

        I went out of last week’s episode with the worry that Dean might have lost the faith in his brother already and may come to stand in opposition to Sam, but It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester settled those worries for now. Despite the fact that Dean left Sam alone and sought out solitude to think the events over, I felt that in the end Dean made a decision in support of his brother, no matter how worried he might be about him using his powers. With his admission to Castiel that if he had to do it all over again, he would make the same call, he embraces Sam’s contribution to the salvation of the town by using his powers. Seeing Sam exorcising Samhain clearly unsettled him, shocked him even, but after all is said and done he firmly stands by his brother’s side against the angels.

        Dean might have a hard time coming to terms with his brothers demonic ‘gift’, but when he looks at those kids playing in the playground, I think that for the first time he is ready to understand why Sam feels that he can do good with his powers. That doesn’t mean that he is willing to accept Sam giving into his powers or even that he thinks it is right that Sam tries to use something demonic in nature for good and in the process disregards the dangers it might pose to his soul, but it clearly opened his eyes to Sam’s perspective. To him it’s undeniable that they did something good in this town and Sam’s powers were part of that. There was another shade of grey added to Dean’s world today and he may struggle with it, but the determination in his voice is unmistakable. The brothers stood together, united in their defiance of orders that went against their conscience, and that made me hopeful for their future at the moment.

        In the end the question remains if the use of the wrong means for the right cause can be justified, but as long as we don’t know where the use of his powers might lead Sam and if ultimately his powers are inevitably destructive in nature and hence outweigh any good he ever did by using them, it’s impossible to decide that question. The moral ambivalence that derives out of Sam’s powers is one of the strongest plotlines in this season and I for one enjoy it thoroughly so far!

        Castiel: "Anyway, it’s out of our hands."
        Uriel: "It doesn’t have to be!"
        Castiel: "And what would you suggest?"
        Uriel: "That we drag Dean Winchester out of here, then we blow this insignificant pinprick off the map!"


        The introduction of Uriel was another interesting point in this episode, because it showed that the angels are not on a unified front themselves but vastly differ in temperament and opinions. Uriel clearly embodies the wrathful 'smite first, ask questions later' kind of angels of the Old Testament, while Castiel revealed a more compassionate nature here. Uriel’s angry reaction at being lumped together with Lucifer is highly ironic though, given his own contempt for humanity, after all it was presumably Lucifer’s refusal to bow before humans that led to his downfall (Sin City).

        Uriel’s inherent pride, his air of superiority and his suggestion to take matters in their own hands instead of obeying God’s orders to follow the lead of a human, isn’t all that far away from Lucifer's stance and that makes me wonder if angels like Uriel may choose to follow their own agenda when push comes to shove. Angels in the Supernatural universe clearly have a free will if Uriel’s consideration to disobey and Castiel’s doubt about the righteousness of their orders are any indication, and that makes them another wild card for the Winchesters in the overall plot. If God put Dean to the test in order to determine his decision making under pressure, if he chose Dean as the leader for the heavenly forces, like Sam was chosen as the leader for the demonic forces, Dean might encounter resistance from angels like Uriel and might need to fight a war on more than one front. It will be interesting to see how that plotline unfolds.

        I really like how they used Uriel as a contrast to deepen Castiel’s characterisation in this episode. Castiels hesitant admission that he starts to question his orders and feels like he doesn’t know right from wrong anymore was very touching. As Dean says earlier to him, it’s easy to make a decision if you’re sure about yourself. To act in the name of God doesn’t leave much room for doubt, it’s a black & white existence, it is just because God says it is and to suddenly question that conviction has to be extremely unsettling. Castiel didn’t seem to wrestle with these kinds of doubts in earlier episodes and I wonder if it is the contact with humans that put this process in motion. It seems that in a sense Castiel discovers his own humanity, which makes him more compassionate and perceptive to the trials and tribulations of his father’s creation. I like that development of Castiel’s character.

        In any case, we have to ask if Dean failed this particular test in the name of God or not. It’s hard to determine if even Castiel doesn’t know the answer to that question. Dean believes he didn’t pass the test because he failed to prevent the breaking of the seal, but maybe that wasn’t what the test was about. Maybe it was about being compassionate, about putting the life of others before your own, about making a conscious decision to disobey an order to follow your own conscience. Did Dean’s decision endanger the overall mission, did he sacrifice the future of mankind for its present? Only time will tell, but on my end there’s no doubt that Sam and Dean made the right call here.

        What else was noteworthy:

        Uriel’s advice to Sam that he should ask his brother what he remembers from hell, is the only thing that worries me at the moment. So far all clues lead me to the conclusion that something happened to Dean in hell that went beyond being tortured. The part of his own subconsciousness that was represented as Lilith in his hallucination in Yellow Fever knew why he was infected with the ghost sickness. In combination with the theory that all victims may have used fear as a weapon and now Uriel’s statement that Dean should come off his moral high ground, it seems to indicate that maybe Dean wasn’t only a victim in hell, but also a perpetrator. Maybe becoming a demon in hell isn’t only a factor of torture but also a result of being forced to commit inhuman acts and that’s why Dean has buried his memories of hell so deeply, not only pain but shame being a part of it. Of course this is all highly speculative and I could be completely wrong, still whatever it is, I hope Kripke and Co didn’t burden Dean with something that he (and the audience) isn’t able to forgive himself.

        On a more light-hearted note: It’s the first time in a while that we see Sam and Dean do actual research themselves, not relying on Bobby or other sources. It was good to see Dean working on the laptop while Sam was buried in old books, we didn’t have that for way too long!

        I loved Sam’s quick thinking when he smeared blood on his and Dean’s face, in order to mask them from Samhain’s view. Dean’s indignant reaction to Sam’s 'I gave it a shot' was very reminiscent of his reaction in the aftermath of Sam’s plan in Route666, when he realised that Sam staked his life on a probability.

        In conclusion: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester was a thought provoking and exciting episode that expanded the mytharc yet another step and had satisfying characterisations for both brothers. This season doesn’t cease to amaze me with its brilliant plotting and I can’t wait for the rest of it!.
        galathea
        Roadie
        Last edited by galathea; 02-11-08, 12:36 AM.

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