I'm kind of obsessed with 15x10. Granted, I've only seen it once and am not sure how much I remember because it has been a SUPREMELY long start to 2020, y'all. But I'm fascinated? Terrified? I'd call it my 8x19 of the decade but we only get half a season this decade, so I don't know now significant that designation would really be.
8x19 is dear to me because it introduced these plot elements that blew wide open everything that had been true before. (The whole "reapers are angels" and "Purgatory does not require extensive season-long machinations and spellwork" thing.) In my version of SPN and 8x19, it's not that those two things have always been true--but that they became true as the fabric of the universe went to shit following a series of Apocalypses, some foreordained and others self-inflicted. The universe has had a hard life, man. Anyway, I love it, because it produced for me what continues to be an endless source of fascination and I love making up universe/metaphysical weirdness in the SPNverse.
Right now my relationship to 15x10 feels much the same. I mean, in no way, shape, or form do I begin to accept the apparent premise of the episode. I don't need to debate myself on that at all, and also don't feel like I'm being asked to. The notion's too ridiculous. Of course Sam and Dean experience and deal with "normal people" things--always have, always will. Their lives are probably 85% normal people things, 10% Apocalypse things and 5% just idk being dead. We've seen them deal with normal things on camera, which means they definitely do in the bleed between scenes. Because like, those 42 minutes are the primo cuts, you know?
But here are some things:
- I'm actually not sure Sam and Dean feel that way--I mean, feel like they have lives that are material and mundane and innocuously whatever. At least not in any self-assured way. Like, obviously they're aware that yes, they've burnt pasta before. But I think that living in a world that suddenly feels very arbitrary and a little punitive at this very personal, ground-up level--and not arbitrary and punitive in the usual top-down way of Apocalypses, etc.--would be so hard. It'd be dissociative and deadening and their lives were already kind of like that. They're predisposed to not being able to take much more of that. Like fuck it maybe they are in a story and this is just how things work now.
- Sam and Dean both rely really heavily on thinking about who their experiences have made them, for good or bad. Both in terms of narrative, episodic memory (the Dean witch amnesia episode is probably not one of Sam's favorite memories) but also, fundamentally procedural memory. You are what you do, how you do it, how you've learned to do it. You are the inventor of your own survival. (At least until God decides you're not. But lets you remember enough for you to know, but not know, and therefore to have nothing.)
- I don't personally care about Chuck or whatever Creator narrative he has going on (or wants to have going on) but I find the bottom-up horror of all this tantalizing, but in ways that make me physically uneasy and deeply anxious. Which is not pleasant but I'm really into it?? From TV, I think it's hard to feel emotions other than the primary colors of happy/sad/mad so whenever I get something a little weirder, I'm into it. One of my favorite shows in the world is HBO's Six Feet Under, for a lot of reasons but uniquely its ability to make me feel deep-seated, agonizing, suffocating frustration. Not because it's a frustrating show--that's just the feeling it was able to cultivate. I love those kinds of ugly gargoyle feelings. What 15x10 makes me feel is definitely ugly gargoyle terror, rather than the elegant, clean kind I get when, say, watching a thriller.
Actually, on the subject of HBO. SFU had a lot of very odd psychedelic cuts that would randomly include dance numbers or broadway showtune singing, in a show that in its normal routines was very much not that. So like... in reference to the Tumblr posts wishing for SPN but with an HBO aesthetic, we're sort of already there. Sort of. It just depends on which HBO you're talking about, and for what duration. XDDD
- Admittedly, part of that terror stems from "Show, what are you doing" terror, though it probably shouldn't, because I've already established that I don't agree with the episode's apparent premise. And like, I'm not gonna fight SPN on that. XD Regardless of whether SPN decides it believes it or not. And like, I'll be honest, one of the qualities that I've consistently found admirable about SPN is its long-standing dedication to putting itself far, far further out into some zaniness in a way that far exceed its abilities. Coming into SPN at S4/5, and having 5x22 be my first live finale, maybe it's a little inevitable. I'm in love with SPN's sheer audacity, its willingness to not stick the landing (whether or not I enjoy what that landing actually looks like. I am almost always more interested in season premieres than season finales).
All that sounds like a backhanded compliment but I swear it's not. XP I mean this so sincerely!!! I think that's part of the reason I'm often genuinely fond of Buck-Lemming--their episodes are often most likely to be far more ambitious than anything SPN could possibly support. There's an energy to reckless abandon that's messy, yeah, but generative in ways that trying to be tightly controlled (and failing) doesn't do as well. To quote Bobby quoting Browning, man's reach should exceed his grasp.
- If I were to approach 15x10's "normalcy" plot from the perspective of an external reviewer, yeah, I think wherever SPN is headed with whatever this is, I think it's absolutely an idea, or thought experiment, that is going to exceed SPN's actual abilities. From the vantage point of external reviewer, do I think I'm going to like this? Probably not?? I don't know?? ...But I'm also probably going to enjoy it. I can't not. It's too weird. Too much an invitation!
- On the weirdness: Something that stood out to me was the fact that whatever brave new world we encountered in 15x10, we didn't get a resolution, or a suggestion of one by the end of the episode. We often do? At least for this particular kind of weirdness. Mystery Spot, the witch amnesia episode, etc. I can't quite put my finger on why that felt so unusual, because it's not like we haven't had weird mytharc things that play out over vast swathes of time (soulless!Sam, our two entire seasons of the Mark of Cain), but it does feel unusual, and so I'm fascinated by it.
Even though it's definitely plot-relevant (and we get to go to Alaska because of it?!?!) and will by virtue of this get resolved/explained at some point, somehow leaving it unresolved entirely my episode's end makes me think of the last scene in 9x06, where Sam and Dean drive away in a CGI car for whatever reason. I'm sure there were dumb production reasons for that, but ignoring those it was just SO WEIRD and never explained and just kind of this strange thing that happened and will now forever exist in an unresolved state. 15x10 has that energy to me. And I am SO. INTO THAT.
- I'm also thinking about 15x04 and Chuck's resentment not only for Becky's critiques of his own work, but also her love of "the normal stuff," and the ways that those conversations color his designs. His investment in finding ways to twist that.
- I don't think I've done well in articulating my ideas here, and think that's problematic because they feel like things that are very easy to misrepresent. (Like whenever I try to make chili and FOR WHATEVER REASON my randomly dumping spices into the pot results in levels missing from the flavor profile. Yes, exactly like that, actually.) But I'm fascinated and terrified and I've got all these 15x10 feelings that are like my 8x19 feelings but harder. I wish I had time to work through them but that will have to wait because I've already spent 10x longer on this ramble than I meant to.
I really don't need this kind of anxiety/terror in my life right now--someone, think of my circulatory system, please; think of my endocrine system!--but I guess if I had to choose a source, it'd be SPN and not any of the other things causing anxiety/terror in my life rn!