Something really strange happened last night on Supernatural, which was that the episode was internally inconsistent, full of unfunny jokes (a Snookie joke? really?), and contained a subplot that in no way illuminated the main plot. Plus, the whole "Sam goes to Hell" issue from last week was swept clumsily under the rug, into a poorly-concealed plothole. I think "Mannequin 3: The Reckoning" was one of those rare episodes when Supernatural reminded me of an ordinary television show, which is to say that it was unable to deliver its usual grab-you-by-the-lapels awesomeness. Spoilers and a bit of grousing ahead.
We began auspiciously, with a faceful of Hell and some good one-liners from Dean
The episode started off right, with the brothers trying to figure out what happened to Sam when he fell to the floor spasming and had what felt like a weeklong dream of Hell. Dean offered some sage advice about how Sam needed to stop scratching the wall that keeps his memories from flooding in and killing him. "Just shove it down and let it come out in bursts of violence and alcoholism." Go, Dean.
But from there, things went off track. The boys go to investigate a strange murder in Paterson, New Jersey, which elicited a dumb Snookie joke instead of a William Carlos Williams reference. Bad move. Turns out that the ghost of a seamstress named Rose is animating life-sized dolls - an anatomical dummy, a mannequin, and later, a sex doll - to kill a bunch of dicks who played a really mean practical joke on her. (She died accidentally when she hit her head on a coffee table while running from them in shame.)
One bonus is that Sam was using the blinky-light, weeeoooweee-noise handheld device to find ghost traces. Why don't they use that more often? It's so awesome.
I have a problem with how this ghost works.
It's not as if I want my ghosts to make perfect sense, and there have been plenty of random hauntings in this show (some of them really quite lame - like the racist truck). But why would a seamstress choose to haunt dummies? Sure, I guess I could see her haunting mannequins since she worked in a garment-making factory. So fine, she haunts dummies because they are sort of like the mannequins she worked with every day. Sam finds her bones and burns them, but then she kills again. So the mystery deepens and we find out that Rose's haunting is emanating from her sister, who carries Rose's kidney in her body.
OK, that's a reasonable twist. But then when the brothers bring Rose's sister with them in Sam's car to try "houdou" on her kidney, things go orthogonal. Rose's ghost jumps into Dean's car, to which Dean says, "Wait this thing haunts sex dolls, not cars!" And the joke is supposed to be that Dean's car is a sex doll to him. Except that the ghost actually haunted only one sex doll - the other dolls were an anatomical dummy and a sexless, faceless mannequin. So the internal consistency is shot, and the whole "car as sex doll" joke falls off the face of a cliff.
Further commentary on the bad jokes, just to make my point by making it repeatedly, the way this episode did with its points that it made repeatedly:
What was with the Kim Catrall mannequin joke? C'mon, people - a Snookie joke and a Kim Catrall joke? I'm having nostalgia for the faerie joke episode with dwarf joke sauce. At least those were funny bits, even if they were obnoxious.
UPDATE: OK fine, so Kim Catrall played the mannequin in the first Mannequin movie - sorry, I only remembered Andrew McCarthy's hotness in that flick. Where were my Andrew McCarthy jokes?
A subplot that felt like a reiteration of why Dean and Lisa are not together
This scene felt like it was written to fit into another episode. Why is Lisa acting like Dean has just randomly shown up on her doorstep, when we know it's because Ben called him claiming that Lisa wasn't coming out of her room and wouldn't talk to him? And what kind of dialogue is that? "I'm not asking for anything." "Well ask for something!"
Haven't we been over this territory before? Did this subplot where Dean visited Lisa and Ben advance his relationships with them in any way? Or was it just padding? I was really hoping that this would be the moment when Lisa and Ben would decide to join the brothers on the road, or at least become more active members of the brother's extended circle of hunter pals and hunter-helpers. Instead it was just a repeat of previous Dean/Lisa conflicts, and Ben accusing Dean of "abandoning his family."
Yes, we did get a broody Dean moment where he was in the car driving away from Ben and Lisa, his lips looking all pouty in the moonlight. But we can get that any time. We don't need a spurious subplot for a little wetlips from Dean.
A twist that felt like it was tacked-on, not twisty
Supernatural is famous for its terrific plotting and solid twists. But the sex doll car twist with kidney haunting fell flat this time. Rose's sister is randomly killed by a flying piece of glass from Dean's haunted car plunging into a window. As her sister dies, Rose appears and says, "I never meant this," and burns up. So our ghost is gone, and I'm feeling really unsatisfied.
Now it's time to process our feelings
When the ghost is dead and the remaining targets of her wrath have been saved, Sam and Dean have a few really good lines. Sam says, "We saved some dicks and killed an innocent girl." And they both mull over how lame their job is sometimes, because of situations like these - where the ghost kind of had a point, and the guys responsible (indirectly) for her death are the sorts of douchebags who send fake love notes to a shy coworker, to lure her out on a fake date so they can jump out and laugh at her.
It's a nice, thoughtful coda to an episode that's also about Dean being a dick too (that was the only way the subplot worked as a reflection on the main plot). Sam also gets a chance to thank Dean for saving his soul, and it was a good moment of closure for that mini-arc in the show. I just wish the rest of the episode had been as good as the opening and closing conversations between Sam and Dean.