First, let me extend my apologies for being so late with this Ramble. My family and I were on a road trip from KS to AZ last week during my daughter's spring break. Much of that time was spent rather "off the grid" so I wasn't able to post anything. I didn't see this episode until Saturday when I was able to download it from Amazon, and with the return trip and re-entry into the 12-hr work day, this is the first I've had to Ramble. Because of that, this will be a bit brief, but I'll work to get back on track this week. If all goes well, I should be able to post on Thursdays, moving forward.
As far as "The Things They Carried" is concerned, it was a good MotW to ease us back into the swing of things, I thought.
I'm afraid that even without the shorter timeframe for ramblage I wouldn't have a ton to say about this one. It was a basic horror story, Winchester style. The creature was disgusting, the victims were tragic -- all of them, honestly, even the killers -- and the boys were victorious. The best thing about it, for me, was the return of Cole and the fact that they didn't kill him off at the end.
With the last glimpse we had of Dean's I'm so done with this expression after killing Cain and getting the ever-lovin' crap beat out of him, I have to say I was a little surprised to see him acting so...normal. I'm not sure what I expected, exactly, but he was very much the same as he's been since Sam cured him of his demon-ness. Maybe even a bit more compassionate at times, which I loved. When things go sideways for Dean, he downshifts into survival mode and that has always been centered on one thing: the job. Doing the job. Hunting things -- and in this case, saving people.
Sam was just as desperate to find a cure or a solution to the Mark of Cain as he had been when we last saw him; his desperation rolled from him there at the beginning. I thought the way they bookended Dean's initial conversation in the car -- where Sam was doing a piss-poor job of hiding his search from Dean's glancing eyes -- about how Sam needed to stop doing that to himself and accept that this is how it was now, with Dean's closing comment about not being able to save everyone was nicely done. Both comments from Dean spoke to the fact that he's accepted his fate while his brother so hasn't. Sam can't just accept that Dean will continue on controlling his reaction to the Mark until the moment he simply can't. Because...what then? Sam kills him? Or lets him run amuck? Sam has no other choice but to keep searching for a cure or a solution. Otherwise, he's basically signing their mutual death warrants.
Besides, we've seen Dean accept his fate before -- due to a choice he made, no less: when he was ticking through his last year before the Hellhounds dragged him to the Pit. He made the choice to trade his soul for Sam's life, he accepted his fate, then he became afraid. He didn't want to die. And they (really, Sam) searched tirelessly for a way to save him until...he couldn't. I can see that scenario running through Sam's head as he scrolls through screen after endless screen of lore and history and what ifs and maybes. All is not lost, after all. Castiel is out there doing...whatever Cas does. Probably something involving Metatron. Charlie is looking for the Book of the Damned.
So, Sam has his hope and Dean has his acceptance and in the meantime, until something pops up to alter either course they have the job. It's their only constant, the backbeat to the lyrics of their life. Even when they don't know what they're dealing with, they know the job they have to do. They embrace it. I've recently learned something about finding something you're good at and someone taking that from you because they want you to be good at something else. You feel panic, a sense of loss, resentment, worry. You may not even love doing that thing you're good at, but because you're good at it you hang on as tightly as you can because it's familiar and real and as tangible as anything in this life can be. That's hunting for these two and it's a nice constant to see of their characters.
There were two character elements that stood out for me in this episode.
First, the fact that Dean was the one who wanted to find a way to save Cole (and as a by-product, Kit) while Sam was comfortable recommending a bullet to the brain in order to save other civilians from becoming victims of the Khan-infected soldiers. That was a nice juxtaposition of typical character reactions. Dean, who has accepted his fate to be one day overwhelmed and/or defeated by the Mark he voluntarily took on -- after all, sometimes the guy still dies, right? -- refused to let Cole give up and even put himself at risk to keep Cole in the game, keep him fighting, save him. I don't know if it was because he felt he owed Cole something for taking his father from him, or if he found some sort of kinship in the soldier, but it was heartening to see the 'saving people' aspect of their family motto come out in Dean after all his focus on death and killing and loss.
Second was the distinction of what being a hero meant. The writers chose soldiers to be the infected -- partly, I'm assuming, to make it believable for Cole to return -- and by and large soldiers are seen as heroes by 'regular people' because of what they sacrifice for the safety of their nation or their fellow man. They are lauded (usually, except in rare, Vietnam-like cases) and awarded medals and honors. But in this case, it was the soldiers who were the monsters and the men who saved others from being killed -- who sacrificed -- lived in the dark. No medals, no awards, no recognition, though the potential victims saved by these men would definitely consider them heroes. The story shone a light on the soldier and the hunter's shadow was cast on the wall.
As I said, I like that they brought Cole back and used his involvement to help build up Dean's heroic side -- remind him that he had one, in fact. It was good to see him working so hard to save Cole after what had happened with Charlie. Dean needed to remind himself that he could use his 'powers' for good, not evil. And I think having it be the man who had tried to kill him, the man whose life he inadvertently, irrevocably changed over a decade ago, was fitting. It was good, too, that the monster was familiar to them, yet just enough different it posed a challenge. I thought it worked well to have it basically be smuggled in from Iraq -- supernatural monsters are global, man.
There were still some hand waving and head tilty moments, as per usual, and I can't believe they missed the opportunity to have someone yell, "KHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN!!" But all in all, it was decent and there were some nice brotherly moments. I didn't see the previews, so I'm hoping we get a bit back to the thick of things in this next episode. Okay, lists!
- The whole THEN sequence with the what the hell and the I don't know echoes. That made me grin.
- Dean's "No porn where we eat" edict. And how nice it was to see him giving his brother a hard time about porn. (Yes, I heard it as soon as I said it.)
- Sam's continued quest to save his brother -- first from the demonocity, now from the ultimate effects of the Mark of Cain. I love his tenacity.
- Dean so very obviously wanting a bite of cake and then snaking a fingertip of icing. Heh.
- The way Dean watched the first widow as she talked, like his whole body was listening to her.
- The wives, in general. Both of them were very noticeably believable. I usually don't take much notice of the guest stars, but they were good.
- The boy's reactions to the vid that Cole shared with them -- total concentration, grimaces, sympathetic winces.
- Cole's outright and open appreciation for what Dean and Sam go through with no recognition.
- "That's the job." The only thing, really, that's holding Dean together at this point.
- "And you bought him dinner."
- Dean's stomping boots. That was gross as well as awesome.
- Dean's, "Wait...wait...wait!" when Kit rushed him and headed out of the cabin. The dude's possessed by a monster and Dean's still trying to reason with him.
- "Is there a version where you don't cap me?"
- "At least I get a medal for my efforts. I tried to kill your ass. Almost took you off the map. Who'd be saving me now?"
- "You say that like it's just another Tuesday." "Buddy, it's only Monday."
- Dean's version of 'pound & shout' CPR.
- "Take a knee."
- "You're gonna fight harder than you ever have."
- "You can do everything right but sometimes...the guy still dies."
- Sam's barely suppressed flinch at the end when he hears Dean's words apply to more than just the soldier they couldn't save.
- So, Cole watches the Impala drive waaaaaay off down the street, then heads to his Jeep and a few seconds later, he's passing the Impala, which has pulled into an alley. That was some magic driving there, fellas.
- What. Is up. With Sam's hair?
- Dean's sweating, hot, thirsty enough to drink water in front of Cole who is trying to dry out a monster inside of him and yet he can't take his outer, long-sleeved shirt off?
- Cole asks Dean to tie him to the chair and then after the whole attack and water-chugging attempt, Cole's still free? I'd be tying his ass up post haste.
- Cole using the nicknames "Sammy" and "Dean-o". I just...I mean, first, what happened to Dean being the only one who is allowed to call Sam 'Sammy' and second Dean-o just sounded...weird coming from Cole.
- Not sure I have many directly related to this episode. I mean, it was a Khan worm, only the dehydration variation rather than its smaller mind-control cousin. Mostly my questions are arch related, so I'll save them for an arch related episode.
- One thing, though. I know William Shatner follows the show and tends to tweet about it, usually while watching live. Did he say anything about the name of the monster?? Because that would be hilarious. To me.