Supernatural season 10 episode 13 review: Halt & Catch Fire
Supernatural delves into the risky area of fantasy tech crossover in this week's stylish episode...
This review contains spoilers.
10.13 Halt & Catch Fire
First of all, I do apologise for missing last week’s review; unfortunately some personal stuff cropped up and I had to forgo the opportunity of writing about how much I loved the previous episode About A Boy in any great detail. I will say a few words on it though as it was a huge amount of fun. Grown-up/tween Dean was hilarity incarnate and Dylan Everett’s performance was a great balance of mimicking Jensen Ackles and exploring what a teenage, hormonal Dean would be like. Also, kudos to Lesley Nicol, otherwise known as Downton Abbey’s Mrs Patmore, for her brief role as a vicious Gretel. It’s good to see other cast members are continuing the Downton Stabby tradition following Dan Stevens’ mad-eyed turn in The Guest.
It’s an I Know What You Did Last Summer-type affair in this week’s Supernatural episode, Halt & Catch Fire, though as four students finds themselves the target of some spooky and technologically themed revenge. The poltergeist in question takes inventive advantage of technology to get revenge on the kids who caused his car accident. Sam and Dean are flummoxed by the vengeful spirit who can seemingly hop from one location to the next, mowing down undergraduates as he goes. Given the ghost’s predilection for technology and a lack of human remains or tethering objects to salt and burn, the brothers attempt to solve the mystery whilst keeping the last student alive.
‘Ghost in the machine’ episodes are always a tricky affair because technology moves so fast, the episodes can quickly become obsolete. You only have to look back at Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s infamous I Robot, You Jane to know what a terrible tech-supernatural looks like. For the most part, Halt & Catch Fire handles it well whilst providing an underlying wry commentary on our society’s reliance upon our machines and the great god of wi-fi. It certainly produced a chuckle from this viewer when I realised I was watching the episode on one device whilst surrounded by three others.
It does feel as if the episode could have gone further with that though because social media and technology are not often explored within the realms of Supernatural. Outside of the obvious use of phones, Sam researching on his laptop or Dean using it to look up Busty Asian Beauties, Supernatural doesn’t really do massive amounts of technology. It feels incongruous within their world of Latin incantations or Enochian symbols. There’s an interesting clash of the ages to be found there and the episode hints towards it on a couple of occasions, particularly with Dean’s lack of knowledge regarding the latest apps, but instantly knowing how to get rid of a poltergeist, but it’s never pushed any further.
It’s been a fair while since the boys dealt with a regular ghost or poltergeist, or at least it feels that way, so it was refreshing to see them take on something so first season. However, the plot’s derivative nature stops it from excelling beyond anything other than an ordinary monster of the week episode. It’s been a common theme of this season that the individual episodes were reminiscent of the first season, but this is the first time this has been to the show’s detriment. The problem with many of the individual episodes sort of blurred into one another due to the similarity of their storylines and it feels like this episode will share that fate.
That being said, there were a few individual moments that shone through the fairly ordinary narrative, largely thanks to the cast and the odd visual and directorial flair. It hasn’t always been the flashiest of shows when it comes to its visuals, but occasionally it produces something nicely surprising. The close of the cold open with the smash cut from the lights of the pick-up truck into the blue, glowing titles was pretty spectacular which I thought was a great touch.
It also has a few nice comedy moments too, usually at the expense of either Dean’s ignorance or his age as references pass him by or he acknowledges himself as a Gen Xer. I’m still hoping that the end of the series will bring a supercut of Dean’s facial expressions, of which I’m sure this episode would provide a fair few entries from the Christine reference, via ‘nothing gets deleted from the internet,’ to the unfortunate STD fraternity acronym.
It’s a shame that the rest of the episode is such a standard affair, but it does feel like only a minor bump in the road so far, particularly given the high quality of the rest of the season.
Read Becky’s review of episode eleven, There’s No Place Like Home, here.
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