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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.


Feb. 3rd, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this episode definitely hit all my wrong buttons. (And I DETESTED "Yellow Fever" too - I actually like "Bugs" better because at least that episode had some good brother moments.)

I just don't understand why Kripke would hire two more comic book writers. At least Edlund's had experience in scriptwriting and the workings of television: these two don't seem very proficient in writing multi-dimensional characters and fleshed out plots, imo. I kind of doubt that their previous experience has prepared them all that well for the complexity of this show. My own take is that these guys focused on one theme - Sam was unhappy in his childhood- and everything else (Dean, the ghost story, high school) were just thrown in as filler. I noticed a couple of the plot holes you mentioned but not all. I really enjoyed reading your perspective as someone in the know.

It was actually the characterizations that just put the final nail in the coffin for me. Out of respect for your post, I won't go into that either other than to say that a more balanced, nuanced interpretation of the brothers would have been nice, imo. But I think that's expecting too much. I guess I'll stick to good fanfic for that.

And I don't even want to get started on how this episode pretty much destroyed my belief that the brothers were really close up until Sam left. It's changed my entire opinion of their relationship and what I imagine happening should both brothers survive at the end of the series. I always thought that their bond was the cornerstone of the show but now?. The dynamics of their relationship-yes. Their bond-not so sure.

The only thing I can honestly say I enjoyed was Colin and Brock's acting. Despite my problems with the script, they really did an outstanding job.

Anyways, thanks for posting this critique. It made for a very interesting read!
Feb. 3rd, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
My 12year old students loved the scene in Yellow Fever where the cat in the locker scares Dean. I thought it was the worst scene in Supernatural ever.

Maybe Kripke thinks he's making this show for the "kiddies". That's one way to drop the ball on plot integrity and research.

Still, I liked "School" because the characterization was strong.
Feb. 3rd, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
I know a lot of fans liked the characterizations- it's such a personal opinion. I thought that the writing definitely conveyed a certain characterization of the brothers. I just didn't agree with/like what I thought was being conveyed, either because it seemed OCC based on established canon, a tired rehash or lacking dimension. And in view of the "dick" fiasco, I don't have a lot of faith that these writers are always following canon and/or Kripke's vision.

(Yeah, I thought the locker scene was awful too.)
Feb. 5th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)
Oh and the locker room scene in Yellow Fever was awful. Kripke has said that he tried to make it writing comedies and failed. His career got started when he started writing horror. I think we now know why, I suspect he is a big 3 Stooges fan

Feb. 5th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)
I agree Colin was great and Colin and Brock clicked well.

Thank you for your reply