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Phantom Traveler

Terror at 30000 feet! This week’s MOTW is a black, particulate cloud, which after soaking into a person’s eyes (making them look rather like Evil Willow Rosenberg) compels them to suicidally cause plane crashes. Sam and Dean must discover what their adversary is, and of course, how to destroy it.

The MOTW plots are becoming kind of formulaic here. Last week was another vengeful ghost, this time acting through the medium of water to attack its victims; and this week it’s a demon, possessing hapless Redshirts and wreaking havoc.

Fortunately we get a little more uber-arc and character development in this episode. A man whose home the Brothers Winchester had cleansed of a poltergeist calls them up and asks for help with this plane crash problem. It’s the first time they’ve been sought out, rather than gone looking for trouble, and it gives the writers more options when setting up the weekly Level Boss. It also appears that Papa Winchester has gone totally underground, as we discover that his voicemail now directs all callers to Dean. It had previously been disconnected, so the new voicemail greeting provides some proof that Pops is still alive, but no clues as to where he’s gone or how to find him.

Character development is progressing nicely for Dean, thanks mostly to tasty Mr. Ackles, though the writers are giving him most of the meat. Either they’ve decided Sam’s one-note obsession is enough to make him interesting, or they just think he’s prettier with his brow knotted in consternation.

Whatever the writers are aiming for, I’m starting to get irritated with Padalecki himself. He’s emoting so hard it looks like he’s going to either burst into tears or bleed from the ears. The boy really needs to chill and realize that stoic pain is much more compelling – especially in contrast to devil-may-care Dean.

Speaking of Dean, and my obvious hormonally based preferences aside, Jensen Ackles hammed up Dean’s fear of flying rather nicely, culminating in a moment of wide-eyed-staring panic that brought to mind my reaction to my last cell phone bill. The writers have been getting a little desperate with their attempts at humor, and quite a bit of it is more reference-based than sourced from any wellspring of wit.

For instance - Dean, Sam and the guy who called them in are walking through an airline maintenance bay, discussing how they met:
The Guy (to Sam): Dean and your dad really helped me out.
Sam: Yeah he told me, it was a Poltergeist?
Off-screen voice: Poltergeist! I love that movie!

Or, slightly more subtle - from last week’s episode:
Dean: I’m Agent Ford this is Agent, uh, Hamil.

That one earned a snerk from me, and I definitely appreciate the attempts at humor. However the writers have a tin ear for wit and it’s only via the deft skills of Jensen Ackles and the occasional guest actor (last week’s Amy Acker got in a few zingers) that their gags work.

Or maybe I’m just spoiled. I saw Serenity last weekend. Did you? If not, get your pert buttocks to the nearest multiplex and plunk down your $10. It’s worth it.

Next week: Bloody Mary Bloody Mary Bloody Mary! No, I’m totally serious!

Marin Carpenter

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