After the all-out run of the first three episodes, this MotW episode felt appropriately tame. The boys were actually attempting to take some down time and rest. Actually, truly rest. Which, you ask me, was sorely needed after Dean got injected by, like, a gallon of blessed blood and nearly died to become human again and Sam had his shoulder (elbow?) wrecked by a demon and didn't let that stop him from searching for Dean.
But, c'mon, now. They're Winchesters. Resting for them is...well, a MotW.
I had an interesting exchange in last week's Ramble comments with a viewer who also happens to be more of a Sam-girl than a Dean-girl and in the course of the back-and-forth, I found myself remembering how pre-destined so much of the brother's lives has been. Much of their fates had been decided before their parents were even born; basically, to my way of thinking, the only thing in this life either of them actually chose...was each other. By choosing each other, they thwarted fate, denied destiny, and shunned universal expectations.
Doesn't mean they've avoided going through various versions of Hell, here on Earth and in actual Hell. But they keep coming back to center, pulling each other out of a tailspin, and, eventually, helping each other level out. I mean, sure...sometimes it takes a long-assed time to get that balance. And sometimes it means one or both of them has to actually die to hit a restart button. But still. I think having that overlay in my head as I watched helped me appreciate some of the different nuances of the brother's conversations a bit differently than I otherwise might have.
Okay, so lists, and then thinking.
- Warren Zevon. Always did like to howl along with that song.
- The boots Tasha was wearing when she entered the biker bar to pick up (and subsequently kill) the Dave Navarro look-alike.
- "Girl after my own heart." "That's the idea," Oh, dark humor. You ironic thing, you.
- The boys chillin' out, sitting in folding chairs, on a lake, looking out at the mountains, a cooler of beers between them. Just the sight of them had me sighing with ease. (However, I was glad when they finally ditched the 3-D movie glasses, er, um, shades.)
- The 'no hunting' sign next to where the boys sat at the lake...talking about hunting. Hee.
- The way the boys talked to each other. It wasn't open and honest hour, but it also wasn't cagey, suspicious, antagonistic, accusatory. They haven't reached the point where they own up to everything they've done or been willing to do, but they also weren't avoiding the topics entirely. It was a decent start to reconnecting and repairing a relationship that clearly means everything to both of them now.
- Sam still watching out for Dean -- making sure he was ready to hunt/kill again -- and Dean turning it back on Sam with the same search for honesty.
- The boys in Game Warden uniforms.
- "Assume we believe everything."
- "She ain't done chomping down on Sons of Anarchy just yet." "She likes bad boys." "Wait'll she gets a load of us." (Also? I totally want an SPN/SoA crossover now. Just saying.)
- Dean's this is good...this is good exhale, as if he's trying to coach himself, encourage himself, keep himself in check.
- Sam leaning his good arm on the driver's side door of the Impala, his body like an isosceles triangle. Nice.
- Dean walking. <3 (What?)
- Sam silently backing Dean's "werewolf cure" play even though he knew there wasn't a cure.
- The way Tasha looked creepy as hell when Kate was telling her story, after she ate out some random dude's heart. Ev-iel.
- "I watched you die. I carried your corpse into your room and put your dead body on your bed." (Loved the descriptive mirror image of what Dean had been forced to do with Sam back at Cold Oak - you could almost see that memory slip across Dean's eyes.)
- "I never even said thank you." "You don't ever have to say that. Not to me."
- Dean reaching out a hand to check on Sam when the male werewolves rough them up.
- "These guys, huh? Can you believe 'em?" "Couple of minor leaguers."
- Kate, once again, walking down the road with her pack on her shoulder and sad music playing ala Bruce Banner.
- "Let's say you're right. Maybe I'm not ready to hunt. I'm just trying to do the right thing because I'm sick and tired of doing the wrong one."
- The overly-long (IMO) Lester flashback. I mean...it's the 4th episode, Show. We don't have Swiss-cheesed brains. I think we remember the deal with Lester, thanks.
- Kate, once again, walking down the road with her pack on her shoulder and sad music playing ala Bruce Banner. Yes, I both liked it...and didn't like it. I think the problem was? I didn't really care about her that much in the first place, back when we met her in Bitten. *shrugs*
- The overly symbolic overtones of Kate's story. More on that later.
- I'm dying to know where the boys get all their under-cover gear. FBI suits, sure. I can see that. But Game Warden uniforms? I would love to have a scene in an episode where they have to go to some thrift store or something to figure out their personas for a case. It would be fun to see them preparing for who they have to be (and creating the fake IDs necessary), not just ready to go and playing it out. It's as if they have a locker full of 'costumes' for any occasion.
- Anyone else a bit surprised to see Dean ready to impersonate a lawman (even a Game Warden version of one) so soon after his mug was plastered all over "the wires" for killing that guy in the Gas 'n Sip? I mean, I know it was in a different state, but still. After the bank robbery back in Season 4, they had to lay low for a long time. Just...saying.
- Not really a burning question, but I don't have a 'huh' category. I found it interesting that Dean remembered everything from when he was a demon. I wasn't sure how they'd play that. Somehow knowing he remembers makes "you were a demon" a little less of an excuse than "you didn't have a soul" was for Sam, since Sam didn't remember what he did when soulless. Wonder how they'll continue to play that out....
- Anyone else think the cabin where they found Tasha looked a lot like Jodi Mills' family cabin?
- Mostly, the rest of my questions revolve around all the open storylines that we didn't see in this episode...but weren't supposed to see, since it was a "rest period." But, y'know, like...what's up with Cole? Has he found a lead on the boys? How's Cas' grace holding up? Are he and Hannah in Heaven...so to speak? Did Crowley toss the Blade into a deep, dark hole? Is the ginger baddie pinning more bell hops to ceilings? Basic stuff like that.
As far as Kate was concerned, I felt it was clear the moment we saw her that she wasn't the killer...to me that was why we never saw her face when "the blonde" killed the Dave Navarro look-alike at the biker bar. It was also obvious that Kate would have to make the choice to kill her sister, especially after she confessed that she was the one who turned her. I appreciate a good subtle life-lesson for our heroes to learn, but...eh. This one was just...okay. Not troublesome, but also not overly compelling.
Kate had stuck to her promise to not hurt anyone "who didn't deserve" it (not sure her criteria on that, but, hey...who am I to judge). She hadn't eaten one human heart, as evidenced by all the headless chickens at the barn (none of which were running around, disappointingly enough). Tasha, however, was wicked once turned. Downright evil, actually. She wasn't even like Garth's werewolf in-laws with the whole Ragnarok thing going on. She was cold, deadly, and friggin' creepy. Her speech to Kate at the end about no longer being weak and scared, but now being scary was the best part of her story. That, coupled with Dean's flat, but chilling, statement that Tasha was in too deep and would never come back from that was the part of the overtone that had my ears perking up.
Kate turning her sister to save her life, yeah, we get that. Both brothers get that, in very intimate ways. It wasn't that Kate couldn't be alone; it was that her sister, whom she loved (and had a BFF charm bracelet with to prove it) was dying. If there's anything the Winchester brothers could relate to, it's doing the unthinkable to save their sibling's life. They both saw the what if scenario playing out before them with Kate's attempt at giving Tasha a second chance backfiring on her. It was clear they both felt the impact of the outcome -- Sam saying that they couldn't lay what had happened to them at the sister's feet and Dean trying to stop the endless cycle of killing of innocents by doing his job...but ultimately unable to do so for the sake of his brother.
The thing that worried me was the idea that, though human again, there could be latent darkness within Dean. And not the kind of darkness that we all have in us, but actual, real demonic darkness. I think both brothers are, on some level, worried about that. When Dean said that Tasha was too far gone, there was a tightness to his eyes, a hollowness to his voice, that betrayed his thoughts of having been down that road. Or at least at the crossroads of that path. Not being able to come back -- after being a torturer in Hell and a demon on Earth -- is a very real, very current fear.
One that Sam shares, if the flinch and slightly panicky look he shot Dean at that moment was any indication. His constant vigilance over Dean and his continued check-in that Dean was ready were clear indications that he's afraid of Dean slipping away, of losing his brother again. And I don't know if Sam could take that another time. I don't know if he feels strong enough to save him again so soon if he were to lose him for any reason.
I knew the moment they all got in that cabin that Kate would kill Tasha. It was really the only way it could end to keep the what if scenario playing out. Part of me liked that they had Kate walking off, alone and lonely, to another town where she'd do whatever she could to live (until something made her angry and she hulked out...oh, wait...) for the mere fact that Kate being alive out there gave the brothers a sense of hope in this scenario: not all monsters do monstrous things, and some can come back from that darkness. It's something they both need to believe to keep going.
But another part of me wondered what kind of symbolism might be drawn from Kate killing herself after she killed Tasha. Ending the cycle, stopping the madness that she created. It would be a very different 'lesson' for the brothers to learn there. Eh, sometimes I just like thinking what if a bit myself.
The best part of this episode, I felt, was the way the boys were around each other. We didn't get a lot of emotion or impassioned speeches, no hugs or tears or things we've seen in the past as evidence that the boys were Really Feeling Strongly about something. I think that's what I loved about it. They've...grown up. They're tired and worn and have been through the wringer. Now's not the time for choked voices and tears of confession. Not to say it won't come, but it doesn't really fit. Not right now. They are learning a new set of dance steps around each other, and they're both healing.
The rest they were attempting at the onset of the episode was actually rather perfect. Dean referred to it as "we" time because of what they'd each been through. But as much as it was needed, you could see it didn't sit comfortable on either of them. They were too used to being in action, surrounded by chaos. That's normal for them. It's funny, actually. I have an ongoing struggle with my mother since my father's death over a year ago about the constant state of drama that surrounds her. I want her to make this choice and that decision because, from my vantage point, I can see the results culminating in a peace she hasn't had since before Dad got sick. Her reasoning for resisting me is that she's used to chaos. What makes me feel tense and suffocated is where she feels most at home. Doesn't make sense to me, but there you have it.
Same with the boys. They knew they were supposed to rest up, to heal, to reconnect...but they don't know how to do that. I found it interesting that they left the bunker and drove to where there were mountains (WA, apparently, since that's where the killings were they'd read about in the paper that morning). I mean, KS to WA is a bit of a hike. They clearly started out serious about this chilling out thing. But, as Sam said at the end, they both jumped on the case. Though Sam did so with a "if things go even one inch sideways, give me a heads up" caveat, he was ready to investigate same as Dean, if perhaps not for the same reasons.
I liked that Dean couldn't immediately pull the trigger on Kate when they initially caught her and that Sam, seeing this, took his brother aside and offered to be the one to do the deed. I don't know if Sam's afraid killing will trigger the Mark's control once again, or if he's just worried about Dean's general state of mind, but it was nice to see Sam continuing to try to shield his brother.
I loved the way Dean reached for Sam, seeking contact with him when checking to make sure he was okay when the (slow as molasses) male werewolves roughed them up. That simple gesture of his hand on Sam's shoulder did more for my brother-centric heart than twenty "Sammy's" could have. I also liked that Sam was the one to kill both male werewolves -- even though Dean had his knife drawn. I think Sam was right that Dean wasn't ready. He needed a bit longer in Human Land.
But what I really liked was that they talked. They didn't just sit down with a cuppa and have a chat, of course. I mean, there are gigantic walls to scale and whatnot. And, yes, at first there was denial and avoidance and a few different versions of I'm fine. But then Sam talked about carrying Dean's body and how that triggered him to do things he would never have thought himself capable of just to find him again. And Dean confessed to not knowing how to talk about what happened to him.
Dean thanked Sam in his way; Sam said he was welcome in his way. While they didn't compare black marks in their personal ledger books, they broached the subject of what Sam had been willing to do and how maybe he's not all that okay with killing right now, either. And I think that's at least a start to a sense of balance and -- possibly -- an end to the tiresome comparison of which of them did the more-harmful thing to the other.
I mean, sometimes you just have to let it go. You have to forgive and forget. Or you'll never be whole again.
Once, a long time ago, Dean offered a clean slate. Blanket forgiveness for all past wrongs. Maybe they need that again for what Sam said to Dean in The Purge, for what Dean allowed happen to Sam back in 9.01, for Sam not looking for Dean in Purgatory, for Dean forcing Sam's soul back against his wishes...I mean, all of it. Start now with this renewed care and concern and connection and move forward.
It's clear to me that's what Dean is searching for, by the way his voice cracked just so when he said, "This was about getting back in the saddle. Doing something good, not stewing in my own crap." And the echoing understanding on Sam's face when Dean continued at the end, "Maybe I'm not ready to hunt. I'm just trying to do the right thing because I'm sick and tired of doing the wrong one," tells me Sam is ready for that as well.
Honestly? What I would love to see is an episode with no arc-centric story, no MotW, just the brothers remembering who they are, individual, and to each other, at the core of it. A flashback episode, maybe, coupled with a survival theme or something. The classic "trapped in a cave" type trope, forced to talk it out. Get underneath the actions and down to the intentions and the reasons behind them. Offer them the chance to reflect on what makes Dean the heart and Sam the soul of their family. Think about their darkness and why it drives them. Recognize their light and how it shapes them. Yeah, I'd love to see that.
But! That's not what's in store for us, at least not next time. We skip next week for some reason and on Nov 11th we get our 200th episode. The previews to that looked...different. And I'll hold all other assessments until after I view. Heads up, though. I'll be traveling for work that week and so my Ramble will be a smidge late. I'll get it up before the weekend, but there's never a guarantee that 1) the hotel will have the CW and 2) I'll be done with the obligatory dinner stuff by then.
Thanks for reading! Look forward to hearing from you, if you feel up to it.