1) you, as the writer, have to be smart and well-studied enough to not only be able to solve the puzzles, but create them. Exam-writing, problem-creating, logic-magician-ing--it's an art.
2) you not only have to be able to create the puzzles, but you must also be able to make them legible to the audience, who may not be as obsessed with puzzles are you are,
2.5) and whatever puzzle you come up with has to be something your characters can actually conceivably solve--but only with effort
3) you also have to find a way to make your puzzles play in narrative, on screen (or on the page). And that's probably the most challenging part. In a lot of ways, what makes puzzles great is the exact opposite of what makes for good stories, because all the excitement is cerebral but not particularly narrative.
All of that is hugely, hugely challenging. And I love that SPN went for it! I love it when Show plays with different forms/modes like this, and aims at this sort of creative set piece. <3
What's too bad is that the balance between all of these points outlined above was out-of-whack, so the ep ended up splitting the difference and ending up in a sort of no man's land, where in order to make the puzzles play in narrative, the puzzles need to be below Sam and Dean's actual skill level. (It reminds me of this article, How to Write About Characters Who Are Smarter Than You, which is a great read!) Here puzzles means this entire heist job, not just the stuff in the vault: Dealing with the demon guy, staging the heist, figuring out what was in the chest (guys... XD), handling their immortal friend, knowing how to smother a fire, etc. Sam and Dean are smarter than the way they acted here, because if they acted any other way, then the story couldn't work.
Which is ironic, because in order to get the story to work, it meant the episode couldn't work, which is a shame, because I love puzzle games!
+ I love how thoroughly unimpressed Sam and Dean were with this dude's nutty protective measures with his darts and his lion doorknob thing, which was basically the gothic equivalent of a blood sugar test.
+ I don't really know why, but I liked that the demon tried to use the keypad to get into the archives first--like, actually tried multiple times. XD And THEN blew the door open.
+ Hat demon! Who apparently knew enough magic to be able to create his own spells, which is pretty epic.
+ I love that the demon guy knows them as the Famous Winchesters, but this whiny collector has no idea who they are or what all's been going on, even though he's had a demon on his ass for centuries and collects occult objects. And Sam sees his collection and instantly knows that for all his bluster, he doesn't know shit. And since he's been off the grid for so long, he's missed out on quite a bit. (As has his dilapidated truck. I actually really enjoyed that it couldn't keep up with the Impala in reverse gear. I mean, even if you floor it in reverse, you can only go so fast... It's not like there are higher gears of reverse. Sorry, I just hate this guy. He's such a whiner. XD)
+ Okay but like... the demon guy was TOTALLY RIGHT?! Like, if you sell your soul to cure your son of an illness, his death by drowning is NOT covered in the deal. That's not even not reading the fine print and being suckered into a bad deal. THE DEMON GUY WAS RIGHT?! Why would you turn against him for this bizarre, immortal fucker? The demon guy can't be responsible for some whiny dude. My man got shafted. :(
And like, that's interesting, because essentially what we have here is a demon who's, well, a demon, and a really shitty person, and even then Sam and Dean still side with the person. It's different from their encounter with Mia (the therapist shapeshifter) because siding with her was siding with the people by proxy, and siding against some worse monster. So even as Sam and Dean are game to world within a moral system where not all monsters should die, they still don't seem to know what to do when people are worse than monsters. (Though they did side against Ketch in favor of witches.) It's fascinating to me that that seems to be their crisis point where they're not as clear on what they should be doing. I hope we'll get to see them continuing to worth through that as this season and the dilemma with Jack progresses.
+ Since Metatron have Castiel the gift of having consumed all the media ever created on Earth, maybe he knows King Solomon's spell. (The trouble being, of course, he probably doesn't know that he knows. I wonder how long it would take an angelic processor to index all that data? and make it searchable?)
Please note that this post is not an invitation to air your grievances about the episode, the season, or the Show. I'd really prefer not to host discussions of that nature on this journal. Unless you wanna talk shop about how to/how not to write puzzle game stories! I'm always down for craft talk~