?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Though it had a few good moments, in my opinion as a whole, "After School Special" ranks with stinkers like "Bugs" as one of the worst episodes of the Supernatural series, second only in my mind to "Yellow Fever" which, coincidentally, was written by the same writers.

Supernatural has on occasion made some research goofs, like the pronunciation of Samhain or how cell phones work, but in general, they do a decent job of not stretching the audience's ability to suspend disbelief beyond the breaking point. In this episode, however, the writing was so bad that I have to wonder whether Daniel Loflin and Andrew Dabb bothered to do any research at all? Or did they think that just because they went to high school they knew how a high school ran? I come from family of teachers that range from grammar school, high school and special ed, all the way through vocational schools and college, and I cringed through the whole episode.

Columbine, Dunbar, numerous other shooting incidents and student/teacher scandals have caused some major improvements and changes in how the schools work today. These days Dean would need some *really* snazzy credentials, full blown identity theft at least, to pose even as a substitute teacher. Principals are more wary, too, so Dean would have been checked on at least a few times during his first days in the class room by one of the Assistant Principals, if not the Principal or campus security. And teachers are inquisitive; they like to find out information about the new guy in town. Will he keep discipline in his class room, or will behavioral problems spill over into the hall and other class rooms? And let's not forget that a good-looking teacher like Dean would have students and teachers buzzing about him all day.

As for Sam? He wouldn't have escaped his own share of attention as part of the janitorial crew, if for nothing else his height alone. Few things can make a teacher more miserable than a bad janitor. It really behooves teachers to make nice to the janitorial staff, and they do. The making nice nice and subtle bribes would have started almost immediately. So for Sam's teacher not to have recognized him in the end scenes as the tall janitor (who we saw walk directly in front of the teacher at about 9 minutes 50 seconds into the episode) just doesn't ring true.

Next is the whole pivotal mess with the bus. Bus drivers don't always drive the same bus and, as was shown, some one else may be driving it for a special event, so why would a bus driver leave something as personal as a Bible with a lock of his dead son's hair in the glove compartment and risk it being stolen or thrown out? And that whole bit with the road spikes? Egad! Yeah, let's put a whole bus load of innocent children at risk. Ever get a blowout tire while driving at country highway speed? Try four flat tires, then try to keep the bus under control. It is not reasonable that Sam and Dean would have taken that risk with young lives when there were more efficient alternatives. In the time it took the boys to get the road spikes, figure out the route the bus was taking, have the spikes in place in time for the bus without catching any other cars in their trap, they could have driven to the game or the school, gotten in the bus, searched it and burned the hair without anyone ever being the wiser. If nothing else, if they couldn't find the hair they could have stolen the bus and torched it with no one at risk. I mean they talked to Dirk's father during the day, and then they stopped the bus at night, Possibly late night, judging by the deserted road. They had more than enough time to do something more sensible and less risky; without a bus full of hostages/witnesses, never mind a ticked-off ghost with dozens of young bodies to ride. In short, there just had to be some more believable way to insert Sam's "I'm not evil" riff than this.

But given that they stopped the bus full of people, how did Sam immediately know who Dirk was inhabiting? Why did Coach just accept Dean's lame line and sit on his fanny with a busload of students he was responsible for? And why wasn't every kid's face and the Coach's face pressed to the windows watching what was happening? (Probably because if they were, and the Coach saw the gun, he would have been expected to take some action.) Once Coach *heard* the> gunshot he should have done something anyway, like, oh, get the kids to escape out the back, or close the doors!! And you know every kid on that bus has a cell phone to call 911. For that matter, why didn't Dean have everyone evacuate the bus once he couldn't find the hair so that they didn't get possessed? Which brings me to how did the possessed kid get out of the bus without Coach interfering (at first I thought it was the Coach, but with a subsequent viewing it's clear that it was not) and stopping him from going after the crazy men with the guns? No, the kid gets out of the bus with no fuss, no bother, not a sound, so he can surprise Sam and Dean. And how did Dean miraculously figure out that the > hair was in the guy's boot anyway, and not hidden somewhere else in the bus? Actually, why *wasn't* it hidden in the bus, behind a ceiling tile, or between the seat and the wall, or beneath the floor covering; or even split up, one hair here, one hair there? Any of those would have made more logical sense, from the Ghost's point of view at least.

After the whole bus-hijacking-at-gunpoint incident, following the blender and the drowning incident, it hard to believe that the the school was open the next day?!? And that assuming it was open, security was not upped and the staff were not on alert watching for any signs of these two very recognizable crazy guys. Heck, Dean was recognized and the Coach most likely heard the name Winchester as well and reported it to the authorities and to the school staff, and yet with all of that, Sam still manages to casually saunter into the school to talk to his old teacher, who not only is not alarmed but apparently totally oblivious to the events in his own school.

What the writers needed to do was spend more time on developing their story and keeping it consistent and believable. They could have done this by either spending more time on destroying the MotW, or by simplifying that event and and spending more time in the flashbacks. Because the flashbacks did not fit well into the story structure; Sam's were fine but I thought Dean's were disruptive to the flow of the story. I am not going to address whether the characterizations were right or not, I will leave that to the boards to hash out, but instead address how the flashbacks fit into the story flow. In "Something Wicked" the flashbacks were told from Dean's point of view, in "A Very Supernatural Christmas" it was clearly Sam's, as it was in "I Know What You did Last Summer". These previous episodes set up a convention for the series that when there is a close up of the character's face, it is that character remembering the events of the past. In the first flashback it's not clear who is remembering, though from the way it is edited and shot, I would almost guess it was Metallicar!! (On a side note I did think that the slow motion arrival was just gorgeous though, applause to the director.) Still, as the episode continues, it becomes clear that it is Sam's memories that we see and yet how can Sam remember Dean's passionate clinch with Amanda? So the whole structure of the flashbacks is poorly conceived and the writers would have been better off not including the Dean-centric bits at all or take the time to separate them out and show us what triggered Dean's memory and his feelings about them. Or they could have used the flashback time to tell us more about Sam and either his relationship with Dean. Its canon that Sam had a lot of resentment towards his father, but what did he really think of Dean at that time? His teacher said that Sam described Dean as quite a character? What did that mean, it would have been nice to have had that fleshed out more.

I don't wish bad things on anyone so my hope is that Kripke confines Daniel Loflin and Andrew Dabb to writing Ghost-Facer webisodes, until they take some writing classes, some logical thinking classes and learn how to do research.


Edit: After posting last night when I was too tired to adequately edit what I had written, I have to wonder if the writers made my mistake and sent the script to production when they were too tired to really judge their own work. Luckily I have had the chance to go back and with the help of a good friend re-edit and re-post before I suffered too much embarrassment.

Comments

mikeneko
Feb. 3rd, 2009 07:08 am (UTC)
These days Dean would need some *really* snazzy credentials, full blown identity theft at least, to pose even as a substitute teacher.

Hmm? Why? I've subbed in three consolidated districts in the same state where this episode was set. The only requirement (other than filling out the application) for short-term subbing is a photocopy of a college transcript showing 60 hours of college credit; however, requirements can be (and are) set even lower by districts with severe sub shortages. Actually, I'm not entirely certain what you're envisioning. The tiny size of that gym class indicates a small district. Security in the rural consolidated schools is much the same as it ever was -- you check in at the office.

Principals are more wary, too, so Dean would have been checked on at least a few times during his first days in the class room by one of the Assistant Principals, if not the Principal or campus security. And teachers are inquisitive; they like to find out information about the new guy in town.

Heh. I only recall one principal ever dropping by while I was subbing, in a tiny middle school. In the high schools, they give you the room number and directions, and you're on your own until the bell rings at the end of the day. Teachers completely ignore subs unless you're parked in their lounge or you're supervising a lunch or recess with them. (We won't count that teacher who chased me down when I was booking to get to a gym class on time -- to demand my hall pass because my shorts and sneakers meant I was a student.) Subbing, a glamorous lifestyle.

Bus drivers don't always drive the same bus

Actually, that'd be another thing that depends on where you live. Here, if they have somewhere to park them, drivers keep their regular buses at home. As I recall, the bus I rode all through high school had photos of the driver's kids taped all over the wall beside her seat.

Edited at 2009-02-03 07:36 am (UTC)
zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
I would say that 10 years ago I would agree with you, with how Subs were handled by schools, but as I can only refer to areas where my family and friends have worked, which would be portions of IL MN and FL, I have to concede that I really don't know what quieter rural areas are like.

The other teachers weren't nosey? Listening to my family and their friends it has always sounded like they were checking the subs out and found them excellent gossip fodder. They were mighty suspicious and critical too. You have to be careful when criticizing a colleague's teaching style but a sub is fair game. Then Dean had a student injured in his class and that would always attract attention, but to be fair, whats a bloody possibly broken nose compared to death by swirly or food processor?

Driver's Keep their regular buses at home?!? boy I would think zoning and neighbors would go ballistic, not to mention the owners of the buses and those agencies that are responsible for making sure that they are properly serviced

Zaz
zazreil
Feb. 3rd, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
At least with Samhain I was able to track their research to a real source behind the legend. In that case they chose an interpretation that some objected to but it was at least based on a real legend if not the real fact. And Meadow sweet itself was not used as a supernatural entity but as decoration for pagan gods - which I suspect were supposed to hint at Zeus and Hera which is not that far fetched considering its relation to Jupiter/Zeus in legend.

But Anna, you got me there, Anna was great until Heaven and Hell - yeah that was another bad episode this season

Zaz
mikeneko
Feb. 4th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
Ah. The guidelines aren't difficult to find for this state. The phrase of art: "Each school district establishes the specific requirements for a substitute teacher." An example from one random district's site: "Bring $1.00 for Filing Fee (to file criminal background check letter, Substitute Teaching Certificate Application and T.E.R.F. Application). Also bring the following: Copy of college transcript, High School Diploma or College Degree, Driver's License, Social Security Card, Birth Certificate." Easy peasy! And yet people aren't kicking down the doors to sign up . . .

Driver's Keep their regular buses at home?!? boy I would think zoning and neighbors would go ballistic, not to mention the owners of the buses and those agencies that are responsible for making sure that they are properly serviced

Neighbors and zoning boards don't apply with farms; the districts own their buses. One can't really extrapolate urban/suburban to rural/small-town experience in a 1:1 manner. I s'pose one could glom them together, but I'd been assuming that (relative) realism was the point of contention. /shrugs
zazreil
Feb. 5th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
I agree that you can't urban/suburban to rural/small-town experience in a 1:1 manner. But the fact is we really don't know how big the school and town is, I can only judge by what I see on screen, and it doesn't look like a rural community or a 10,000 person small of a town to me, I would guess probably at least 100,000 people. Some of the cues that make me think that it is a larger town is that as the Metallicar pulls in we see the neighborhood, that has what I like to call mini-mansions. Huge luxury houses that in are in the upper price range brackets. This is not typical small or rural town housing, and I have driven through plenty of small towns from Connecticut to Minnesota. The school itself at least a half block long and has three stories, with a football field and stands. My suburban high school out side of a large metropolitan area which had an enrollment of 3K to 4K was only 2 stories at the time and about the same dimensions. So from my perspective the town is large enough that issues I mentioned would apply.
theditor
Feb. 9th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
I wandered in from someone else's journal and I hope I'm not belaboring a point. I have to say that the show does a bad job of realistically imitating the towns the episodes supposedly take place in, at least the eps that are based in Indiana (and there are several). There was one episode set in my hometown, and you'd think by watching that the city is a *lot* bigger than it actually is. I couldn't find a population for Fairfax, but looking on a map it can't be much bigger than a few thousand people. You're right in saying, though, that it looks like a much larger place based on the houses and size of the school.
etoile444
Feb. 3rd, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
a teacher's point of view
I live in NY so if you want to sub you have to have at least two years of college done, finger prints, application, interview, reference check, and board approval. So yeh, in NY the cover wouldn't work. But hey! I am so willing to let it go. Frankly, in this day and age the boys have a better chance of getting admitted to a federal building or a court house.

zazreil
Feb. 5th, 2009 05:38 am (UTC)
Re: a teacher's point of view
That's true of the areas of Southern Illinois and Minnesota where my cousin worked as well. But then they weren't very rural

Zaz