Supernatural Season 12, Episode 12
“Stuck in the Middle (With You)”
Posted by Dawn and Erica
We missed last week’s recap for the amazing and heartbreaking “Regarding Dean” because both Dawn and Jaymee were nailed with what may well have been the Croatoan virus. Poor Jaymee is still feeling the effects, so this week we welcome Erica McCarthy back to the SPN fold. And we’re going to need her, because this was the episode that reduced damn near every SPN fan’s twitter feed to cursing, screaming, crying, and almost total incoherence, resulting in a flood of standing ovation gifs at the hour’s end.
This week SPN basically caved in our heads and our hearts with episode 12: “Stuck in the Middle With You.” It was directed by
Dawn’s boyfriend SPN’s favorite archangel Gabriel, Richard Speight, Jr., and aired 10 years to the day after the episode “Tall Tales” aired, which was the very ep where we first met our beloved Trickster.
Our expectations were pretty high. This was Richard’s second time in the director’s chair and he did a great job with “Just My Imagination” (11×8), giving us a sweet and funny episode featuring Sam’s imaginary childhood friend (Erica LOVED this episode, by the by). Plus, the second half of season 12 has been stellar so far, so there was a lot to live up to.
We didn’t need to worry. Y’all, he nailed it. NAILED IT. Like, nailed it so hard no one even has to worry about stopping Dawn from waxing rhapsodic about Richard because he deserves every accolade. Bring him back. Let him direct more. A lot more.
This recap is going to be split into two sections: On-Screen Heroes and Off-Screen Heroes. The actors get most of our attention every week and rightly so, but the crew needs a whole lot of love this time around because damn. Writing, editing, cinematography, choreography, soundtrack, and every set of hands on a camera created a Chuckdamn masterpiece, and we need to make sure that gets recognized this time. But first, let’s talk plot and cast.
We’ve said it before and now we are saying it again: give Misha Collins all the Emmys. Castiel has had more to do in the past few eps and it has been flawless every time. This episode almost killed us dead, and if anyone ever doubted Castiel’s humanity and his utter love for these ridiculous humans who always seems to get themselves into trouble and take our poor angel along with them, all those doubts are now gone. Misha made us weep this week when he said goodbye to his family.
Erica: I damn near couldn’t with this one. Like. For real. It hurt so damned bad – especially after knowing that Cas killed Billie to save all of the Winchesters. After hearing EXACTLY how Cas feels about them, to watch him say goodbye was heart wrenching, and damn near killed ME. Why, oh why, does this man not yet have an Emmy for this role, I’d like to know.
Dawn: I don’t want to hear a bad word about Misha or Castiel ever. From anyone. I will cut you. He is a precious thing and my heart shattered like a glass goblin during this scene. Un. Be. Lievable.
On the opposite end of the emotion spectrum, however, we have Mary Winchester. Mary, Mary, Mary. Girl, what are you even doing? It’s takes some hard work to make us all think maybe John was the better parent after all, so we guess well done there. Mary is just…we don’t even know. Sure, yes, fine, she has a lot to adjust to, but WTF, Mary? The British Men of Letters? They tried to kill your son, remember? They think American hunters are morons. Also we’re all pretty sure Ketch is a sociopath, so really? THIS is who you choose to ally with? Yeah, keep your opinions on Crowley and Rowena to yourself. Your buddies are WAY worse.
Erica: Okay. So in watching this episode, upon realizing that Mary was…I don’t even know what the hell she was doing, but my first response was “Mary, what the FUCK did you do?” My second response was “Oh Mary. What the fuck. You stupid idiot.” In those exact words, because I have no filter. I really thought she was going to be the GOOD parent–you know, the mom that actually takes care of her kids and shit. Apparently not.
Dawn: Remember when we all thought John was the shitty parent? Good times. I can’t decide if Mary’s Campbell is showing too much because she is being selfish and stupid, which she clearly got from her father, or if her Winchester is showing since she has clearly learned the trait of “keep everything of actual importance from your family members.” Because here’s a thought, Mary – instead of giving the Colt to the sociopath, maybe you might have considered discussing it with your sons first? You know, the ones who have actually killed demons before and have, at this point, more years of actual hunting experience than you do? And also they have an angel, and a demon, both of whom might also have some knowledge on this topic. JUST A THOUGHT, MARY. BUT BY ALL MEANS, YOU DO YOU.
Erica: Dude. I completely forgot about Samuel Campbell and all of HIS “awesomeness.”/sarcasm If there’s one thing about this family that I will never understand, it’s their constant need to “shoot first, ask for help later once you’ve already cocked it all up.”
Now that we’ve vented that spleen, let’s get back to things that make us happy. Crowley. Our King. Hail to the king, baby. He saved the day. He saved the angel – his buddy, “Feathers.” (a moment of collective “awwwww” from the fandom). And he does it all with such damn style. And we got some backstory, which was just the most delicious little amuse-bouche that has left us salivating for a main course. More Crowley, please and thank you. Much more.
Dawn: Remember when I said I didn’t want to hear a bad thing about Cas? I don’t even want to know a bad thought about Crowley. I will cut you, bring you back to life, then cut you again. Let’s be clear, kids – Crowley has been saving Winchester asses AND Castiel’s ass for several seasons now. SEVERAL SEASONS. And this time? He snapped an archangel’s weapon IN HALF to save Castiel. Snapped it in half. Imagine the power that took, first of all. Now imagine the power in the staff of Michael, and imagine that power in Crowley’s hands and what he could do with it, and yet he STILL snapped it in half to save the life of an angel. He is bad ass; he is clever AF; he is slick and stylish. In fact, given the choice between hunting with the boys and serving as Crowley’s girl friday, I am pretty sure my response would be “How do you take your coffee, highness?” Always.
Erica: MY LIEGE, PLEASE COME BACK. Seriously, though, Crowley in this episode is clutch. This would’ve been the end of Cas entirely were it not for Crowley – and that’s not the first time one of us can say that. In fact, it’s becoming very clear over the course of this season – especially the second half as we’re going through it – that our “villains” are not as villainous as we’ve previously thought. If anything, they’re becoming allies and friends in a way that one wouldn’t have expected. Sure, we’ve seen Crowley get closer to the boys, and there were instances before where Rowena was helpful….to a certain extent. But we’re seeing these characters evolve and I’m curious to see where it goes. Certainly it should be outside Crowley’s character to help as often as he does. And yet.
Dawn: “And yet” indeed. My King.
The boys, oh, the boys. Dean in the diner with the “teachable moment.” Sam realizing that his mother has done something terribly, terribly wrong, something that could cost the life of his friend, his chosen brother. And this, this perfect gorgeous shot of both boys clasping hands with Cas and helping him up and oh my Chuck it’s family and he is their brother and we’re not crying you’re crying. (Erica: Damn dusty in here, is all.)
We need to give guest star Jerry Trimble some serious kudos for his role as Ramiel, Prince of Hell. Not only was he perfectly cast, not only were his fight scenes incredible, but the backstory between him and Crowley was perfection. Jerry Trimble did an amazing job and it’s a shame we didn’t get to have him stick around a little longer. We loved his little hints into hell’s hierarchy when he mentioned Asmodeus and Dagon (who folklorically is male, so it’s interesting that SPN is making it female).
Erica: So THAT’S how one measly crossroads demon becomes the King of Hell – nobody else wanted the damn job. Don’t get me wrong, Crowley OWNED that position. But it always seemed a bit odd to me that a crossroads demon became King of Hell. Especially since we knew that there were stronger demons out there. It’s also a nice connection to Azazel – who, I’ll be honest, I seriously thought that’s who they were fighting early on in this episode. He was the only demon the Winchesters ever came across with yellow eyes, so seeing Ramiel for the first time made me SERIOUSLY concerned. In fact, I’m fairly certain that’s where my “Mary what the fuck did you do” moment came from.
Dawn: Uh, yeah we had the exact same thought about the yellow eyes. But Ramiel was so much better than Azazel, IMO. I also LOVED that he kept whistling “La Donna Mobile,” which roughly translate to “the fickle woman.” What a subtle, spectacular nod to WTF Mary. (And a Tarantino nod as well, with the whistling.) Terrific moments, beautifully acted. Loved it. And his grin when Dean shot him, his attitude when he pulled out the damn demon knife? Holy mother of sin. Mr. Trimble, wild applause, sir. Wild.
And there was one other teensy little should probably mention. Lucifer is back. And Crowley has him.
By the way, it’s not just Lucifer. It’s Mark effing Pellegrino. Are we sure? Yes, we’re sure:
Holy cats, it's the man who killed me! And now I've directed him. It's come full circle. Amazing experience directing @MarkRPellegrino
— Richard Speight, Jr. (@dicksp8jr) February 17, 2017
Welcome home, Luci.
Off-Screen Heroes (in which we give away all the Emmys)
This episode owed a lot to Quentin Tarantino, particularly Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. In case you aren’t a Tarantino fan or in case you thought maybe but weren’t sure, Richard Speight, Jr. made it clear in his tweet, “Diner scene – a blast to shoot. Thank you Tarantino for inspiring @davyperez.”
Yes, thank you for inspiring Perez, who was also the scribe behind 12×4, “American Nightmare,” an episode we LOVED picking apart and also wherein we first learned what a sociopath Mr. Ketch is. Perez was the executive story editor for several other Season 12 eps, and frankly, he’s doing a hell of a job.
And now, Erica is going to handle talking about the great job Richard did in directing now, because Dawn can’t be trusted.
Erica: Dawn can be trusted; she’s just remarkably biased. Which is perfectly fine, because in this case, she is also right. I don’t have the same…let’s call it an attachment to Richard. But holy Chuck, this was some damn fine directing. I don’t know about Tarantino, cause I don’t watch a whole lot of his movies, but if Dawn says it’s Tarantino, I’ll go with it. What I can speak to is the layout of the episode. The choice of separating out each little story into its own chapter was BRILLIANT, and it’s not really something we see in TV shows, because it’s really difficult to do well, I think, in such a short time frame. In movies, obvs, we’re able to see different perspectives of the same event without any real issue because there’s enough time. In a 42 minute TV episode? Significantly harder to do WELL. SPN, as it seems to consistently do this season, NAILED IT. A lot of credit for that, I think, needs to go to the writer, but also to
Dawn’s boyfriend the director, because that is such an elevated level for a director in general, but a TV director? Holy crap. Tarantino is groundbreaking for a reason. To take inspiration from him for the purpose of a TV episode is…I don’t want to say “dangerous” because that’s too strong a word, but…risky. That’s the word I’ll use there. It’s risky to take inspiration from Tarantino for TV, a) because only Tarantino is Tarantino, and b) because even Tarantino doesn’t attempt his thing in only 42 minutes. Do it poorly, and the episode is tanked. Do it well, and you’re well on your way to earning legendary status (at least in my mind)…and probably an Emmy. Holy Chuck, Gabriel – I’ll be damned if you didn’t do this SO WELL.
Dawn: If anyone needs me, I will be sitting quietly in the corner, basking in my vindication. THAT’S MY BOY. DAMN.
The cinematography in this episode was mind-blowing, so we are also going to need an Emmy for Serge Ladouceur, who has been with SPN since 2004 and just keeps getting better and better. His work was exceptional in this episode, and some of the most subtle shots – like the close up of the boys grasping Cas’ hands, which was the most-tweeted shot that night – were often the best. Combine that work with the incredible editing done by John Fitzpatrick (and every person who had their hands on a camera, let’s be honest), and what resulted was a visually stunning episode that should be lauded by far more than genre fans, and we sincerely hope it will be. Tell us who to write, call, petition, bribe, and email. We’ll do it.
SPN is known for using music to great effect and it is a sin that there haven’t seen a whole series of soundtracks released. This episode, though, really worked that skill hard and it paid off. Yes, of course, the music would be vital in an episode so clearly inspired by Tarantino, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be done well. Surprise! It was. It was amazing. We haven’t quite been able to determine who was responsible for all the song choices, which leads us to believe that it might have been a group effort.
Dawn: In my head, I imagine a frazzled music editor, script in hand, running around a room filled with vinyl albums and digging through stacks and stacks in search of the right song. Kinda like me making every mix tape ever when I was a teenager. Yes, I am aware that it’s probably all digital right now, but I don’t care. That’s my headcanon and I sticking to it.
Erica: The prevailing impression I got during this episode was old-school western. And it was PERFECTION.
The fight choreography stood out like whoa. It was some of the best this show has ever done, and credit goes right to Lou Bollo and Jesse Blue (who also happens to be Jensen’s stunt double). Jerry Trimble himself was kind enough to supply that information to us via Twitter, and he also let us know that Jesse Blue is the owner of Ancient Fire Dojo in Vancouver, so we’ll be adding that to our future SPN travel itinerary because wow. You need to watch the entire scene to really see what we are talking about, but check out this little taste (massive props to Jared here, btw)
Erica: I just want to add in here that I have done fight choreography before as an actor, and it’s difficult under the best of circumstances, when it’s simple and you just need to make it look good for a couple of people. It’s a significant amount of work to make that look good in person, without the benefit of retouching and editing. It’s so easy to make choreography look good on TV, but this? This choreography is, like, movie-level. The sheer amount of WORK that went into this choreography is mind-blowing. Once again, a perfect example of this episode being more on par with a movie than a TV show.
Dawn: Between you, several other friends of ours, years and years of working Ren faires, and having friends who both own martial arts studios and are serious students of martial arts, my bar for fight choreography is high. SPN doesn’t always meet it. This time, they surpassed it. Like, I want to send those scenes to all the martial arts and theatre fight choreographers that I know so that they can bask in its glory.
So that’s the ep, SPN Family. And what an ep it was. In our opinion, this episode absolutely deserves to go down in history as a Top Five SPN episode, and frankly it should make some lists of Best Television episodes in general. Stellar, stellar stuff. Season 12 is on a roll, and it looks like next week is going to keep on bringing it.