Episode Title: “The Purge”
Writers: Eric Charmelo & Nicole Snyder
Director: Phil Sgriccia
Previously on “Supernatural”
“Supernatural” brings it back to a weakly comedic based self-contained story with “The Purge.” Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) wearing a hairnet, and Sam (Jared Padalecki) doubling as a fitness instructor. Need I say more? Well, of course! But since the mid-season finale, “Supernatural” has done a better job of presenting self-contained episodes that actually address plot or tie up previous seasons story lines. Last weeks “Sharp Teeth” put a wraps on Garth (DJ Qualls) for a while, maybe even for good. The episode before that, “First Born,” reversed Sam’s quest to close the gates of hell and put this seasons plot device to address heaven’s problems squarely on Dean’s shoulders.
Sadly, “The Purge” isn’t a continuation of the great solitary episodes, not to mention it’s named after a reasonably terrible film. Instead, “Supernatural” overreaches its bounds and adds another new creature to its mythology. At this point in “Supernatural’s” progression, the logical place to put these additions is in the tie-in novels that Titan books releases every year, three at a time.
Part of my anger stems from the show’s inability to move the plot forward, even the slightest bit, in episodes like this. This season’s story arc has been sustained by just five episodes to date. For fans of the show, I’m sure it’s enough. But while subplots dangle and good characters fall into the either, “Supernatural” becomes the equivalent of a Twinkie, filled with what you hope is cream, but it’s more likely to give you cancer within the next twenty-five years.
The set up for “The Purge” is about as cookie cutter as the show gets: random murders and unusual causes of death before the Winchester brothers catch wind of it, hit the road and investigate. The place is Stillwater, Minnesota, where the resemblance to The Coen Brothers’ Fargo is palpable, particularly in casting Brianna Buckmaster as Sheriff Donna Hanscum. “Supernatural’s” ability to riff on, or pay homage to pop culture’s iconic films is usually done tastefully. Whether it’s “Mystery Spots” tender rendition of Groundhog Day, or the portrayal of the Back to the Future trilogy – “In the Beginning,” “The Song Remains the Same,” and “Frontierland” – they’ve always been worthy homages. In this episode, it seems more mock than monumental with Stephen King’s Thinner thrown in there to boot.
The monster of the week has a thing for fatties, sucking its victims fat out or absorbing it…it’s hard to really tell how the monster does its killings at first, but when in action, they have what looks like a vacuum for a tongue that they use to suck the meaty insides of their victims out. It’s reminiscent of “Smallville,” in that episode from the first season guest starring Amy Adams as a young girl who became skinny after eating shakes composed of meteor rocks.
The brothers’ investigation leads them to a fitness center called Canyon Valley where they get jobs. Part of the problem with this episode is that, while it is a stand alone episode, the story it is telling isn’t very interesting. The comedy the sneak peaks offer are weak, and this format has been used over and over again, and without any real variation. It’s boring. The monsters, called “Peruvian fat suckers,” opened this clinic to feed themselves: their clients eat bowls full of pudding which knocks them out. The fat suckers use cupping massage techniques to disguise the marks that their tongues leave. At this point, my head hurts. They’re another breed of gentle monster, or seemingly so, where a rogue member starts murdering people. It’s cut from the same dough that last weeks episode was, but without all the substance.
The Peruvian fat sucker shows that “Supernatural” is struggling to introduce newer monsters in this overfilled world. There was a time when “Supernatural” had a respectable mythology; its lineage can be traced back to “The X-Files.” From the personnel employed, including numerous guest stars and directors, to the construction of their mythology, “The X-Files” influence runs through the veins of this show. Right from the first episode of “Supernatural,” when Sam and Dean call two officers on a bridge Mulder and Skully, the show’s pedigree was established. In many ways, “Supernatural” improved on what “The X-Files” built, creating structured substance that had an intention burn. As a fan, I’ve had to watch as Sera Gamble and Jeremy Carver took that lineage for granted. Since season six, it has been relatively destroyed.
“The Purge” as a whole feels claustrophobic. The writers fail to create a viable amount of tension to grip the audience and to make it a worthwhile story. There is a tiny bit of that reluctant monster hunter morality left over from the last episode that is inserted very inorganically. It’s a rehash, and a really weak rehash at that. Furthermore, when Sam and Dean explore their damaged relationship, it comes down to why Dean saved Sam in episode one. Dean reverses the tables and tells Sam that he’d save him if he were dying, but we can see Sam is changed. He’s been changed since the beginning of season eight when he didn’t bother looking for his brother when Dean was banished to purgatory. I give Carver credit for taking Sam and Dean’s relationship in new directions. Is that the endgame, though?
“The Purge” represents the weakest of “Supernatural’s” stand alone episodes, as well as the weakest episode of the entire season. Why this script wasn’t scrapped is amazing, considering how weak it was across the board. This is an episode that tries to take advantage of a committed fan base, one whose passion has driven this show to stay on the air despite a ratings drop off. If this really is the worst the season has to offer, then the best is yet to come, even if that does include Snooki and a spin-off.