Let’s talk Halt & Catch Fire!
I think the beginning is an excellent place to start – and the beginning of this episode was EXCELLENT. I laughed at the driver’s blind faith in Trini (I don’t trust GPS apps much), and I quickly fell in love with the dialogue (“What do you know? Your phone has 3G!”) and the creep factor (“Janet, get out of the truck!”). In true Supernatural style, the scene progressed from creepy as f*ck (possessed truck? Not cool, not cool!!), to cheesy (“Destination: dead ahead.” Oh Trini, you’re so punny), to EPIC in a matter of seconds. Major props to the VFX team for that killer shot (heehee, I can pun too) of the truck flying off the edge and into the title card. So freaking cool!!
Next, we have the opening scene with the brothers. I was thrilled at the inclusion of the croissookie – I always squee a little when there’s stuff like that which has a fandom connection (Jensen had tweeted a picture of the snack in December). Dean’s description of it, “Who cares [what’s in it]? It’s freaking awesome!” is a clear indication of how much he is enjoying it. Which brings me to my favorite aspect of this episode: the continuation of the Mark of Cain storyline.
The progression of the MoC over this and the past two episodes looks something like this:
- There’s No Place Like Home: Dean goes to the extreme in healthy living in an attempt to quell the effects of the Mark. It’s clear the effect this has on him – he often had the shakes (a typical sign of someone recovering from drug addiction), and he was vocally upset, specifically in regard to the unpleasant health food. Despite his efforts, Dean still relapses when fighting Dark!Charlie, where he beats her to a point that horrified him (but made the shakes go away).
- About a Boy: Dean is still upset about his relapse, as evidenced by his reluctance to enter the bar alone. But then my favorite MoC moment of the episode happened: “Screw it, I’m gonna believe in myself.” He comes to the realization that stopping his vices cold turkey isn’t going to work. The Mark’s control over him is not going to be stopped by external forces; he has to fight it through force of will. So he starts to indulge in his vices again (takes the shot of alcohol, eats the cake, listens to whatever tunes he wants).
- Halt & Catch Fire: This episode showed Dean struggling to find balance in his efforts to control the influence of the Mark.
I’ll go more into Dean’s struggle with controlling the Mark in a bit, but first I want to go back to that first bro scene and Sam and Dean’s conversation about Cas’s search for Cain. Dean makes it pretty clear that he’s given up hope of ever finding a cure for the Mark and that he’s tired of harboring false hope. He changes the subject quickly to the new case. Even before he verbally reveals in the last scene that his peace is found in helping people, this action shows it. Dean isn’t the type to sit around when he could be doing something productive. He has come to terms with the fact that finding a cure is a dead end so he makes the decision to direct his energies elsewhere.
This brings the boys to the college campus. One of the first things we notice here is Dean checking out all the female students – something he continues to do in several more scenes. At one point he even turns as though to follow them, but catches himself, saying, “I’m not gonna make it.” It’s apparent that he is attracted to the young women, but his body is saying “yes” and his mind is saying “no.” I saw this as a manifestation of the influence of the Mark. Prior to this we’ve seen Dean begin indulging again – in food, in drink, in music. But we haven’t seen him indulge in one of his favorite vices – women. I believe that Dean is doing his best to keep a tight rein on any impulses that directly involve other people, specifically if it involves physical contact, for fear that he will lose control and the Mark will cause him to hurt someone. To balance this he almost over indulges in his other vices. We see this with his enthusiasm for the cafeteria food. And we also see him take advantage of any opportunity to let off a little steam (two examples being where he busts through the caution tape after the girl is strangled by her laptop cord, and then again with what I’ve dubbed the #TissueToss when he’s consoling Delilah). Dean seems to be giving into his impulses as much as he can in an attempt to quiet the pull of the Mark, while remaining intensely focused on not hurting people in any way.
There is a lot that I loved about this episode, but I’m going to try wrapping it up (now that I’m home from PHXCon – AMAZING weekend, btw – and still haven’t finished this). So let me skip ahead – over all the great dialogue, the awesome VFX, the wonderful throw-backs (EMF, salt & burn, ghost story, etc.) – and jump straight to the final scene between Sam and Dean. I thought the episode told a decent story about dumb college students and vengeful ghosts, but what really thrilled me about the episode was the permeation throughout of the MoC storyline. Great tie-in between Andrew’s ghost finding peace and Dean using Andrew’s story to find a way to clearly express to his brother how he needs to move forward regarding the Mark. Jensen and Jared both did a phenomenal job portraying their characters’ frustrations. Dean is frustrated with dealing with a hopeless situation and Sam is frustrated at his brother’s seeming willingness to give up. But Sam listens to Dean and lets him get his feelings out (something new that has been rather important this season – Dean talking about his feelings and admitting that he’s NOT okay). I cheered for Dean at the end of this episode. I was so proud of him for choosing peace and having the courage and confidence to not only make that decision, but also to share that decision with Sam.
Dean says this to his brother, “I appreciate the effort, okay, I do. But the answer is not out there, it’s with me.” Sam said something similar to Dean at the end of The Hunter Games. “Maybe you have to fight that, you know? Maybe part of that powerful force has to be you.” It’s dialogue like this that makes me very excited to see where the MoC storyline is headed and I feel these statements are indicators of what is to come.
And since we all know that I wrote this after The Executioner’s Song aired, I would just like to add this: my excitement about the MoC storyline has not changed. Things with Cain did not go exactly the way I thought they might, but this story is in no way over (and I’m not entirely convinced that Cain’s part is over either). Can’t wait to see what the Supernatural team has in store for our brothers! Season 10 is shaping up to be one of the best seasons yet!