Usually I watch an episode twice before I review it, so I can hopefully soak in everything valuable. I’ve watched "Hammer of the Gods" three times now — hence the lateness of this review — and I still don’t think I’ve captured everything. This episode is, to me, nearly perfect in everything, including writing, acting, execution and so on. This episode hit nearly every note right for me, with one tiny, niggling exception that I’ll get to later. First off, let’s start with the good stuff, of which there’s quite a bit.
This episode is based off a story by David Reed, who as far as I can tell hasn’t done anything for Supernatural before, but honestly I hope he does a lot more. The teleplay was written by Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin, who’ve done episodes I’ve not been to happy with, surprisingly. The director, Rick Bota, has also never worked on Supernatural but has worked as a director on The Vampire Diaries, Raising the Bar and Harper’s Island, as well as being a Director of Photography on shows such as Jericho, Over There and Tales from the Crypt.
Why do I mention all this? Because I’m wondering if this newness (story from a new author, new director) helped make this episode so good. Not that I’m slighting our former beloved writers and directors, but I’m thinking there must be something to it. For a first time writer and director on this episode, you’d think they knew the characters and the universe intimately, because the writing of this episode, the direction, the look, the photography all came together superbly.
The writing of this episode was top notch, brought home by the excellent acting skills of Jared, Jensen, and notable guest stars Mark Pellegrino, Richard Speight Jr., Rekha Sharma (who I’ve admittedly had a crush on since Battlestar Galactica) and Matt Frewer among others. The Winchester boys were both at the top of their game, and it was great to see them working together so well, as it reminded me of earlier episodes before all this apocalyptic stuff began. There were so many little things I loved in this episode, including:
- Dean using the EMF reader. Yay! It’s been a long time, if I remember correctly, since I’ve seen either of them using the thing.
- Sam trying to pick a lock, then looking worried back at Dean, which prompts Dean calmly ask if there’s someone behind him.
- Sam’s facial expressions over the couple next door loudly making love, not wanting the hotel chocolates, seeing the gods for the first time, etc.
- Lucifer’s amazing, yet calm arrogance.
- Drenched Sam and Dean coming in from the storm. I’m sure the ladies loved that. 😉
- Kali’s amazing speech (which I’ll get to in a moment).
And so on. The writing just is so spot on throughout the entire episode, so rich, dense and complete that I am just in awe of how well it was written, again by someone who’d apparently never written for the show before. This episode also had some of the best speeches I’ve ever seen in any episode, which I’ll look at in more detail shortly.
This episode was also amazing technically. The motel was beautiful in it’s color, brightness and starkness; the use of costumes for the gods and the name tags was just excellent; the camerawork was fantastic, and the music worked perfectly. You can tell that the director of this episode was a Director of Photography, because it shows in the tight camera work throughout the episode. Even little moments, like the boys driving off after seeing Gabriel’s final message, really got to me.
Next up is the acting, which is just amazing all around. Jared and Jensen both were superb, as usual. Their reactions to their strange situations, their acceptance of the situation and then taking charge of it and so on was just perfectly orchestrated. However, as awesome as they were, they weren’t the real stars of this episode.
"Hammer of the Gods" refers to the many gods brought in for this episode. We have Odin and Baldur from Norse Mythology, Kali the Hindu goddess and Ganesh the Hindu god, Mercury the Greek/Roman god, Zao Jun from Chinese mythology and many more. Personally I was more familiar with the Norse and Greek/Roman gods — having studied them a bit in college — than the others, but in looking them up on Wikipedia, I can say the actors who played these rolls did so perfectly, with my own personal nod going to the amazing Rekha Sharma as Kali.
I mean, I should’ve gotten a hint that these guys were going to make an appearance when we saw the Motel was named "Elysian Fields," but when I saw all these gods together in one place, I had a very similar reaction as Sam, in that the boys are totally and completely screwed. Watching these gods bicker amongst themselves was just hilarious, and Rekha Sharma turned up the evil sex appeal as Kali. I also should say that John Emmet Tracy was fantastically creepy and hilarious as Mercury.
Our returning guest stars, Richard Speight Jr. as Loki/Gabriel and Mark Pellegrino as Lucifer, were as amazing as I’ve ever seen. Gabriel’s smart ass, yet sincere attitude toward the boys, Kali and humanity was both amazing and tragic, especially when he succumbs to his own blade at Lucifer’s hand (he also had some of the best one-liners in the episode). Lucifer’s slaughter of the pagan gods and his argument with Gabriel was both amazing and touching. You could tell these actors were pulling out all the stops, because their performances were nothing short of breathtaking.
While the acting and writing was superb, there were two amazing episodes that I have to talk about on their own. The first is about Kali’s speech regarding "Western arrogance." I honestly cheered when this speech was given, which goes as follows:
"Westerners. I swear, the sheer arrogance! You think you’re the only ones on earth? You pillage and you butcher in your God’s name. But you’re not the only religion, and He’s not the only God. And now you think you can just rip the planet apart? You’re wrong. There are billions of us. And we were here first. If anyone gets to end this world, it’s me."
I had been waiting, PRAYING for Supernatural to handle the whole aspect of Christianity and other religions once they brought angels into the picture, and this little speech summed it up beautifully. Sure, Kali herself was arrogant in giving it, but it now opens up the entire playing field of not only angels and demons dealing with the "Judeo-Christian Apocalypse," but now everyone else as well. This is something we’ve seen hinted at in other episodes such as "Fallen Idols" in which other entities have taken note of the Apocalypse.
The other amazing bit came during Gabriel’s argument with Lucifer in which he takes him to task for his "temper tantrum", which has the following exchange:
Lucifer: Gabriel, if you’re doing this for Michael…
Gabriel: Screw him. If he were standing here, I’d shiv his ass, too.
Lucifer: Huh. You disloyal…
Gabriel: Oh, I’m loyal. To them.
Lucifer: Who? These, so called, gods?
Gabriel: To people, Lucifer. People.
Lucifer: So, you’re willing to die, for a pile of *censormode*roaches? Why?
Gabriel: Because Dad was right. They are better than us
Lucifer: They are broken, flawed, abortions!
Gabriel: Damn right, they’re flawed. But, a lot of ’em try, to do better. To forgive!
First off, we cheer for Gabriel as someone else taking up OUR side in the Apocalypse…sadly as short lived as that was. Secondly, we get a better understanding of Lucifer’s true hatred of mankind. "Abortions" he calls us. Not a term to be used lightly at all. It’s Gabriel’s next line, however, about our capacity to do better, to forgive, that really got me, because it gives us a glimmer of hope — the first of many — that maybe we (meaning Sam and Dean, representing humanity here) can get through the apocalypse.
Speaking of hope, Gabriel’s last act — appropriately given through a porn video — is to give Sam and Dean a plan, a clue, as to how to trap Lucifer, since their last chance to kill him died with Gabriel. This is the other glimmer of hope we get in the episode, that not only can Sam and Dean actually defeat the Devil, but they’re already half-way to their goal, owning two of the four rings needed to control the "cage" needed to trap Lucifer. Team Free Will for the win, as they can do this without saying "yes" to either angel and giving into their so-called destinies.
As for how amazing this episode was, it had, for me, one little "WTF" moment and one kinda-sorta-negative. The "WTF" moment came when Dean staked Zao Jun to prevent him from choking Sam, effectively killing him. How did Dean know to do that and where’d he get the stake, I wondered. Secondly, the kinda-sorta-negative was the end scene with the amazing Matt Frewer playing the horseman Pestilence. I mean, it was an amazing scene, granted, but it was soooo gross I gagged a few times. Minor quibbles, ‘eh? 😉
Well, yeah, sure, another quibble is that Gabriel died, which SUCKED in the end, but it was effective in telling the story and moving it forward. I mean here’s a character we’ve enjoyed since season too, killed by his own brother (foreshadowing? I hope not!), but he went out with such a bang that, even though we’ll miss him, he went out with dignity and honor. The way they filmed his death was also astounding, with the burnt wings on the floor looking better than I’ve ever seen.
Overall, "Hammer of the Gods" will go in the books as one of my top three episodes of the entire series, up there with "Nightshifter" and "In the Beginning". This episode was near-perfect in nearly every way, and I need to watch it a few more times just to make sure I got everything. Oh, darn, it’s a hard life I lead. 😉
PS: Also, does anyone know why Mercury’s name tag says "Chet"? Is this a reference to something? I can’t figure out what the heck it means…