#give him a redemption Sam never allowed himself to have if he was his own prisoner
Jensen Ackles, AU!Michael!Dean, 14x10: Nihilism (and rambling about “range”)
Jensen was so fucking good, don’t even touch me right now, don’t even look at me. I mean, he’s always good, but with this episode, he kicked it in the ASS.
I don’t feel like I have enough WORDS for it. Behind a cut while I prattle on. (None of the gifs used as examples are mine.)
I watched the episode multiple times to see what Jensen was doing as Michael that so wasn’t Dean Winchester, because he was so fascinatingly NOT Dean. I know there are certain style choices that lend themselves to the differences, like his hair being parted on the other (wrong) side and the painstakingly dapper suits and the newsboy cap. Dean Smith (4x17: It’s a Terrible Life) had his hair parted on the wrong side, too. It’s some easy shorthand for “hey, something about this isn’t quite right.” (Like the French cuffs didn’t give it away.)
Demon!Dean was just Dean without the moral center. He was fun to watch, don’t get me wrong, for the brief time we got him. MoC!Dean was actually closer to what I thought Demon!Dean was going to be, so I enjoyed him more. Watching MoC!Dean massacre the Stynes was epic and so satisfying (and tragic I know because of the kid, I’m not like yay murder). As much as I love the real Sam and Dean, and I’m always happy when they get back to who they really are, these dark side digressions are so much fun because we get to see Jared and Jensen show off.
But there’s more to it than that. Jensen has said that his approach to each new script is instinctive (reads the script once or twice and decides what he’s going to do) and Jared is intellectual (reads it multiple times to feel like he’s really soaked it in). But here, I feel, Jensen has made some very deliberate choices.
First, A Tangent: I watch different Dark Angel vids on Youtube and there’s usually a comment somewhere about how Alec and Dean are basically the same character, or Alec is Young!Dean. They don’t (always) come right out and say, “He can only convincingly play Dean-like characters”, but the implication is there. The two characters have some superficial traits in common, like sarcasm, physical comedy, Jensen’s face (can’t be helped). But even his face doesn’t really come into it once you hit the latter half of S1 because Jensen’s face changed a lot in the interim. His jaw got stronger, his face got broader. So I watched an episode of Dark Angel and immediately watched an episode of Supernatural (1x3: Dead in the Water). @deanscarlett helped me figure this out: Alec is out for out for himself, Dean was always out for anything but himself (except when it comes to pleasure-seeking, when he even allows it). Alec has his own psychological trauma (2x11: The Berrisford Agenda) which adds facets to his character’s mercenary pursuits, but once he locks down that perceived weakness (”I’m always alright”), you don’t really see him break down like that again. His programming is strong; he just buries it. But it serves a purpose: Max had written him off as a loss after she saved his life at the expense of not getting a cure to the virus (2x3: Proof of Purchase). It showed her that he wasn’t just a “happy-go-lucky sociopath”, that he had a story like everyone else, and that meant he deserved a shot at redemption. Alec was relatively unburdened (I mean... genetically enhanced master assassin... star torturer in HELL... Dean wins this round, I think) compared to Dean, who’s had ever-increasing weight on his shoulders since “Take your brother outside as fast as you can - don't look back. Now, Dean! GO!” Even young, Dean was never this carefree except maybe in his imagination or as a way to distance himself from others, or when he got really into the “I’m a badass I save people” part of it.
In this scene, Alec (if the character is Jensen’s age) is 23. He’s found a bunch of transgenics that fled from Manticore (the only home they’ve ever known) because of a fire. They’re all children, ranging in age from elementary school to early teens. He’s annoyed because they interrupted his sexy times in a motel. He’s very dismissive of them and spends most of those scenes throwing pieces of popcorn at one of the X7s, who are all small children. Creepy black-eyed hive-minded small children, but small children nonetheless. He makes smart remarks and rolls his eyes while Max tries to get through to the children to let them know that they should absolutely not go back to Manticore if they want to live. In just a few minutes, she takes apart their foundations: You don’t answer to me. You’re not a designation, you’re a person. You have a name now. You have to make your own choices.
“Why would Manticore try to get rid of us?”
Compare that to Dean as early as 1x3 Dead in the Water:
Dean doesn’t even talk the same way as Alec (except in the first few episode, while they were still getting used to their characters), and I don’t mean Jensen’s ever-more-gravelly voice, I mean the way he stubbornly pushes his jaw forward and talks out one side of his mouth or through his teeth. He has his mouth slightly open a lot. Sometimes he barely moves his mouth when he talks, speaking as if saying the words mostly to himself. Like 2x20 where Wishverse!Sam says “You slept with my prom date. On prom night.” Dean says, “Yeah that does kinda sound like me” while barely moving his mouth at all. Or in 4x01 where he holds up the empty liquor bottle and asks Bobby, “What, r’yer parents outta town or somethin?” That’s such a mushy line. He has a mush-mouth that’s only made mushier by hunter jargon and Dean’s... idiosyncratic way of speaking. If you weren’t in this fandom, would you know what I full-on Swayze’d that mother even meant? I always think of this (7x21):
(He can speak perfectly clearly when he wants to make a point, or when they’re pretending to be any kind of authority. I always think of the exchange in 5x14: My Bloody Valentine:
SAM: [mock sadness] That's when a dog doesn't eat-- That's when you know something's really wrong.
DEAN: [pokerface] Remarkably patronizing concern. Duly noted.
He can turn it off when he wants to. That Dean’s Master Adapter thing and it’s FUCKING HOT. Oh, I’m a production assistant now? Cool, aced it in a day. Oh, we’re in prison? This is fine, I’m gonna procure cigarettes. LARPing? Sign me the fuck up. Oh, we’re reporters? I can sound like a reporter. I’ve watched thousands of hours of television, I can mimic anyone. I can fake my way through almost anything. We’re in a different town two weeks from now, I can tell people whatever I want.
OH SHIT, DEAN TANGENT INSIDE OF A JENSEN RANGE TANGENT. Quick, make it look intentional!
Anyway, to me, Alec... Dean... not the same character. Going from one to the other was so jarring. For gifsets or edits where you want to show young Dean Winchester, it totally works for that. I mean, it’s Jensen’s face when he was that pre-Supernatural age... except that Jensen didn’t really look like Ridge Canipe or Dylan Everett when he was that age. (I love Dylan Everett. I don’t even care that his eyes are the wrong color.)
But something else Jensen does is put his own mark on roles that he’s given. Tom Hanniger wasn’t supposed to be as sympathetic as he turned out to be, and most people who watched it stated that they wanted someone else to be the bad guy (Axel was looking good for it) so that Tom would be okay. (Sorry if I just spoiled that for you.) Alec wasn’t supposed to be quite so likable, but that’s what Jensen brought to it. Even Kripke said early on that Dean was different on the page than when Jensen got ahold of him. He finds the heart of the character. Imagine if Dean Winchester had been the guy from the pilot this whole time, grossly leering at Jess to make Sam uncomfortable and defensive.
Remember that Jess first says “Your brother Dean?” with a pleased smile on her face.
DEAN: [instantly leering] Oh, I love the Smurfs. [ogles cleavage] You know, I gotta tell you. [steps too close] You are completely out of my brother's league. [suggestive grin]
JESS: [smile fading, clearly uncomfortable] Just let me put something on.
[JESS turns to go. DEAN's voice stops her.]
DEAN: [isn’t discouraged by her discomfort] No, no, no, I wouldn't dream of it. [another leer] Seriously.
When I first watched that, I thought: “Pussyhound with control issues? That’s your brother’s girl, don’t be skeevy.”
But before long, you realize what it was: Contempt. He wasn’t interested in Jess. “I’m going to make you feel very unwelcome because who the hell invited YOU?” It’s very possessive.
Think about that first scene with Dean after “Easy, tiger!” and then Dean a mere 9 episodes later, in “Home”, trying to get through to John because he’s scared, his voice breaking, his eyes filling up. During that first scene, would you have predicted something like that? "My heart’s gonna break for this bossy bad boy creep.” In fact, by the third episode of the series, it has. Sam tries to make a note of it and gets shut down by Dean right away. "I’ll show you a little, but that’s all. Don’t test me.”
DEAN: You're scared. It's okay. I understand. See, when I was your age, I saw something real bad happen to my mom, and I was scared, too. I didn't feel like talking, just like you. But see, my mom—I know she wanted me to be brave. I think about that every day. And I do my best to be brave. And maybe, your dad wants you to be brave too.
DEAN: Oh God, we're not gonna have to hug or anything, are we?
It’s not until 2x20: What is and What Should Never Be where you see how Dean feels about Jess now that he understands how important she was to Sam: He hug-tackles her from out of frame, and if she never died... There were more layers of Dean revealed in that episode than Alec got his entire season. (Don’t even get me started on that episode, I’ll just start crying and I’m already so off course with this post.)
Jensen took this role and made it as iconic as it is. He protects it.
I’m not saying another actor couldn’t have also “sold” that role and made it their own. What I am saying is, I don’t think that another actor would be playing the everloving fuck out of that role -- with all its twists and turns, advances and setbacks -- 14 years later with seemingly as much passion (if not more) than when they started.
But Jensen didn’t leave Dean in that swaggering, cocky, Han Solo place. He deepened the character, added layers, he shows us the cracks and the flaws. The show would NOT have lasted 14 seasons without these two actors. God, I only watch it to see what’s happening to them and see the ways they found to challenge themselves in otherwise unremarkable episodes. It’s like a troubled relationship where you’re like “No, I’m not watching it again ever” and then it texts you at 3am with “wyd” and suddenly you’re playing an episode and wondering about your life.
I went into that long-ass, rambling, what-even-are-you-talking-about tangent to set you up for this:
Nihilism was NOT an unremarkable episode.
This is not like any other role that Jensen has played before.
There’s really no trace of Dean Winchester in Michael except the resemblance (and the daddy issues, I suppose). And even that’s played down with the neat hair, the suit, the artful "I know my best angles” way that he presents himself to people. There’s not even a trace of other characters that Jensen has played. It’s an entirely new role for him.
Michael carries himself elegantly. The perfect posture, the poise, the careful, graceful motions. Dean kind of slouches, looms, or does a parade rest sort of thing where he’s braced for whatever might happen. He’s got a big ambling swagger. He puts his feet up on tables or sits with his legs sprawled apart.
Michael eerily doesn’t blink as much as you would expect. As Dean, Jensen blinks a lot and closes his eyes, sometimes for a few seconds in the middle of a line, as if he’s processing his thoughts. I love it. It doesn’t start happening until S4 or so, where he wants to show the general weariness of the character. It happens the most when he’s angry or exasperated. But Michael is laser-focused.
Michael speaks very precisely and almost ceremoniously, like he’s selecting each word for the maximum impact. He has ALL the time in the world. Dean talks like... well, Dean. This is the big one for me. He just doesn’t SOUND like Dean, even though it’s the same damn voice. It’s in the cadence. He also holds his chin upright so his voice projects differently, and his jaw isn’t clenched like Dean’s usually is. His voice comes across as smooth and oozes condescension.
Michael, in keeping with his wardrobe and (understandable) superiority complex is very fussy. While Sam, Cas, and Jack are talking, he’s speculatively opening and closing his hands in the background as if trying the cuffs, but he doesn’t even bother to struggle. While he’s talking to Cas during the big monologue, he absently picks a speck of something out from under a fingernail and neatly refolds his hands on his knee. He puts himself in those 3-piece suits. He has expanded to take up all of the possible Dean-ness and he’s very proud of his vessel. The human that used to be in control could not possibly matter less. As far as he’s concerned, Dean was his the moment he was even born.
Michael’s expressions are very different. Dean has a very expressive face. In one 5-second gif, you can identify a number of little micro-expressions he goes through. His face is almost never still unless something has gone very wrong. His eyebrows are all over the place. He’s squinty from having scowled for so long. He absently curls his lip when he talks. Because Michael doesn’t have all the trauma and worries that Dean has, he keeps his expression smooth. He looks completely dignified. Because he feels he has absolutely nothing to fear, his expressions are supercilious and disdainful.
Michael is very, very serene. He’s a BEING, and currently immortal. The things the “pig-filthy humans” are doing don’t really seem to concern him. “He's a gnat,” he says about Dean. He’s waiting them out because to him, they’re the blink of an eye. People keep trying to get a rise out of him, I think because he wears Dean’s face and they’re desperate to see a glimpse of him. Michael just doesn’t give a shit. Holy fire? Whatever. These cute handcuffs? That’s adorable.
Look at the image below. There is no Dean at all, there is barely even a flicker of concern. His smile here is almost like, “You are naive and tedious. I’m just waiting for my army to get here. Might as well relax.”
I’m sorry, I’m just very, very excited and I’m so proud of Jensen. He was already brilliant, but this kicked it into a whole new level.
What killed me:
* Don’t interrupt me.
* Dean’s not home right now. Please leave a message.
* (”With these angel cuffs on, Michael’s under control.”) You keep telling yourself that.
* THAT CREEPY ASS SMILE after Sam says that the Impala’s trunk could hold Michael!Dean too. IT’S SO CREEPY WHAT IS IT
* I called them. [smiles, fake gasp of surprise] It’s a party.
* (”Sam, are we going to die here?”) ANOTHER CREEPY LITTLE SMILE like he could not be less intimidated if he tried.
* I can hear you. [they move about 5 steps further] Really?
* Remind me, Castiel, we’re west of Kansas City? (Dudes, he is an archangel, did you think walking into another room was going to keep him from hearing you?)
* Yeah, put a chair against the door. That’ll help.
* The last thing you’ll see is this pretty smile. AND HE DOES THE TONGUE THING THAT JENSEN DOES so in the small moment to me he was Evil!Jensen. I would read that fanfic. it made me SO uneasy.
* I’m in his head. LITERALLY.
* (”He’s lying.”) No, I’m not. And I can still hear you.
* God -- Chuck -- is a writer, and like all writers, He churns out draft after draft. (The way he sort of labors over every letter in the word “Chuck”, it’s so contemptuous, almost like he’s saying “Fuck”?)
* He never would’ve been so... anemic. [absently cleans a fingernail]
* [leans forward] Even God can die. Ugh, the chill that went down my spine.
* Cool science project.
* When they put the electrodes(?) on him, he’s sort of glancing back and forth, HE’S SO AMUSED, he even laughs disparagingly.
* Oh, Cas. I believe in you. LOL
* In there? You’re all mine. *audible swallow*
Ugh, if AU!Michael!Dean was a lotion, I would smear it all over my body.
Thank you for coming to my Jensen Talk.
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I’ve allowed myself to stan a new show: Fox’s ‘911’
Since ‘Supernatural” is ending, I need to used my fangirl powers for good, and I’ve totally fallen for Fox’s ‘911.’ I’ve always watched the show here and there, because Angela Bassett, y’all. But I’ve been burned by Ryan Murphy before (#JusticeforTheTroubletones) so I never let myself get invested in his shows.
Here’s some of the reasons I love it:
Upon first glimpse, it would seem like Buck is the poster boy for toxic masculinity, but even before he became Buck 2.0, he was basically a selfless, slightly reckless golden retriever who imprints on everyone and just wants to help people.
He loves kids, and happily spends his time with his best friend’s son.
He speaks in italics. (It’ll make sense when you re-watch his scenes).
As reckless as he is, we’ve never seen him drunk or violent. In fact, he’s been assaulted a few times, even by Bobby, and he could have thrown him into the ceiling and he’d rather de-escalate the situation than fight back.
He doesn’t care if people think he’s gay, which I don’t officially give him points for. He’s been mistaken for Christopher’s father and Eddie’s husband at least once, and didn’t correct the person as most men would. Because he knows there’s nothing wrong with it.
He cries easily and embraces it.
He has a dope facial birthmark. LIKE ME.
You can do pretty much do anything to him (EXCEPT mess with his family or his job) and he’ll forgive you.
He knew Doug was a scumbag even as a teenager. He sent Maddie cards and things even after she broke off communication with him just to let her know that he was there.
He gave Maddie the tools to rebuild her life and kept reminding her of her strength. He also never pulled the douche “Don’t bang my sister” nonsense when she started dating Chimney. He supported her to make her own decisions.
He’s constantly trying to better himself. Since the show started, he’s learned to have more intimate relationships, how to cook and clean, and to tone down the reckless behavior.
He looks a caricature of Justin Timberlake.
HAVE YOU SEEN HIM? He’s hot AF.
2x04 and 2x08 are basically perfect episodes. The writing is gimmicky and cheesy, but it’s actually really good. The continuity is FANTASTIC.
DIVERSITY: In every sense of the word: sexual, ability, racial, etc. Similiar shows (”Chicago PD”, “Law and Order: SVU”) don’t even know black women exist or they bury them in the coroner’s office. And it’s MOSTLY done well. I’m side-eyeing Athena’s “It was a bad stop” nonsense this week. Because we all know she’s set a cop on fire who pointed a gun at her babies.
Eddie and Buck: Best bromance ever! They talk about emotions, share his son, and work through shit in a mostly healthy way. I don’t need them to date, though it’d be cool if they did. I ship their bromance. It’s one of the healthiest male relationships I’ve ever seen on TV. Sorry, not sorry, Sam and Dean.
Bobby: I actually hate Bobby. He’s so boring, and his backstory isn’t the tale of redemption; it’s more of a sage of how white privilege lets a man who should probably be in jail continue to fail up. Peter Krause also can’t seem to generate a spark of chemistry with Angela Bassett, which means he’s either sleepwalkin’ though the role or a far worse actor than I originally thought. I do like him though because he found a brother (Eddie) for Buck. That’s it.
Her domestic violence storyline was one of the most refreshing I’ve seen on TV in the sense that it addressed how hard it was to leave an abusive husband. And then, she fucking killed his ass. They could have easily had Buck and Athena arrive in time to kill Doug, but Maddie made the decision to fight back and to save herself. They’ve done a decent job of showing her recovery as well, including the PTSD. She’s not magically better, and she probably never will shake those triggers.
She also seems like a great sister. Maddie and Buck scenes are some of my favorites. I’m bummed we haven’t really seen them together after the tsunami.
I remember the Jennifer Love Hewitt craze years ago. And it kind of disappeared when she DARED to gain a pound and age like a human being. But we totally slept on her talent. And I want her to have her own Ryan Murphy show, preferably one where she beats up men by night and runs a flower shop by day.
I can’t wait for her and Chim to get married. Or for her to have a baby. That Buck delivers. During a mudslide.
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so THAT FUCKING LIVESHOW HUH. God fucking damn am I glad I got that ticket, like I’m still riding the high but I honestly think that was one of the best episodes of the whole campaign
IMMENSE shoutout to the guys behind me in line who chatted with me while we waited in the cold and loaned me a portable phone charger so I could actually like, show my ticket
NOTT IS VETH AGAIN. look, we know I was on Team Permagoblin, we know whose blog this is, but like. we’ve seen it coming for a long time so I had time to make my peace, the build on this was incredible, the fucking RP going into this was so nuanced and good. this is only the smallest part of Nott’s journey and only the smallest part of her healing, and I don’t believe for a second that it’s the end of her journey. so I’m happy for her. I was clapping as she came back, and I meant it.
“you are the second great love of my life”
“I love you too, Veth the Brave”
I ABOUT FELL OUT OF THE FUCKING BALCONY
he SAID IT
we knew but he SAID IT
are the two of you gonna EVER TALK ABOUT THAT KISS, HUH
honestly my biases are so intense here that I cannot evaluate any kind of odds, but I wonder if this was a little bit... Nott’s last hurrah with Yeza, in a way? Sam did say he wasn’t sure if Nott was really in love with him anymore...
that said I uh. if. if I CAN’T have my true and great OTP, if they will not give me this, I have.... a second choice Caleb ship now...... which is new......
yeah Caleb/Essek got me, I still prefer Nott/Caleb but I’ve always multishipped on Nott’s half and I have it in me now to have an alternate ship for Caleb apparently
ENEMIES TO FRIENDS TO LOVERS BUT THE ENEMIES PART WAS A SECRET AND NOW HE’S WRACKED WITH GUILT: SEXY
IN LOVE WITH THE MARK: SEXY
DAMNED SOULS SEEKING REDEMPTION: SEXY (see also, first choice ship)
“I am pleading with you” to take this chance we are offering you: SEXY
gentle forehead kiss of benediction: VERY SEXY
“you... you weren’t part of the plan”: SEXY
okay no but for real can we talk about that character growth on Caleb’s part, I saw that listed as self-loathing but it’s... I mean, it’s Caleb, self-loathing is there, but that’s actually one of the most positive things he’s ever had to say about himself?
because the entire argument he’s making hinges on his own potential for grace. his entire argument is: I got better, and so can you. I am capable of redemption, and therefore, so are you. These people came into my life and blew all my ideas wide open and made me start trying to grow, and if you let us, we’re going to do the same to you. we can never undo what we’ve done, but, going forward, we are capable of good, you and I.
that’s such growth. that’s the most that I think we have ever seen Caleb allow himself.
and then there’s Nott. “you sound exactly like all of us. welcome to the mighty nein.” I knew that’s where she was going with it and I fucking SCREAMED MY LUNGS OUT, what a place to end it. because they always said that but she really truly meant it, there, she meant it. he’s one of them, he’s just like them
there’s a thing Nott will do, a kind of rhetorical standby, where she lists off all the reasons against something, all the least flattering descriptions of a person, and then she hits you with the “BUT...” And it’s the most low-charisma way to argue, because, you know, she’s hitting you with the worst things first, but it’s also an incredibly solid way to argue with people who hate themselves (because of course). because she lists off all the things you’re going to think of, all the “but she’s not accounting for -- but once she remembers -- but once she discovers who I really am --” and she says: no, I took that into account, I remember, I know, and still, anyway, I believe what I’m saying
and it’s so perfect in this case, because everything Essek has been saying is that the mighty nein are good, that they are wonderful, that they change everything, that he loves them. and then she hits him with: and we’re not any different from you at all. so if we can do something good, you can too.
that’s really the argument she and Caleb both used, the one-two punch: we are just as bad as you. so you are just as good as us. so you have no excuse not to try.
oh, Essek. “if you let me go.” they’ll let you out of this room alive, but they are the Mighty Nein and they got their hands around your heart, and not now and not ever in a thousand consecuted lives will they ever truly let you go.
and once again, the great strengths of the mighty nein come through: they’re not willing to condemn easily or lightly. they don’t judge, or at least, they don’t judge by any normal standard used by the rest of the world. they will try to befriend anything and anyone except those who betrayed their friends. once they decide to trust you, to be your friend, to love you, they will call you on your bullshit but they will go to the ends of the fucking earth for you. and they are loyal far and above and always to people, nothing else. chaotic to the bone, in that they cause chaos but in that before they are loyal to ideals, to countries, to orders, to creeds, forever and always their first loyalty is to people.
that is what this show is about, again and again and again. a bunch of deeply flawed fuckups with blood on their hands who find each other and offer each other love and trust and loyalty that has nothing to do with any principle, that just is. that is unearned because it has nothing to do with earning.
and it never seems to occur to them for a second that anyone might need to earn the right to do better than they have. that’s simply a chance they’ll offer to anyone they think they can persuade to take it. syphilis bandits, international traitors, ancient assassins shaped by evil gods. do better, if you’re willing to try.
and that’s as fair a definition of grace as I can begin to imagine.
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