I can't believe our luck to get two epis with Sheriff Jody Mills in one season. Especially after I was honestly afraid they had Crowley kill her off last season! I really like her character and how she adds a link to 'real world' experiences to the boy's lives. She grounds the unreality of their lives in a reality they can't escape...but sometimes lose sight of. And she's a layered character, too. One that feels as real as Bobby and Cas, outside of the boys. Not someone, like (for me, anyway) Garth, who is feels more like a caricature than a character. I wouldn't mind seeing more of her as the story continues to unfold into it's 10th season. It would be good to have a strong female character who isn't there as a love interest, and doesn't get killed off or mind-erased.
Per the typical flow of episodes, this episode was destined to be a MotW episode, but as "fillers" go, it was a good story. Felt very "old school" SPN, if you will. There were also some hints to the overall story arc as well, but I felt they were slightly forced. I'll get to that in a second, though. Personally, I think that it's just fine to show a MotW episode after a few myth-arc heavy episodes. It gives us a chance to catch our breath and showcases the fact that life goes on for the boys. They don't get to stop their job just because they have bigger missions. Monsters are still out there, and as Dean said, killing monsters (or hunting evil) is their job. Real people never get to set aside their job when faced with huge crises, right? So I liked seeing them out there, doing the job midst everything else they're facing.
While the overall episode was visually lighter on the boys, Jody's story inside this episode was, I thought, timed rather well for the emotional journey the boys are on -- and, on a personal note, really resonated for me after the events that transpired earlier this week. As those of you who have been following this Ramble for some time might remember, my father passed away a year ago. Monday was the anniversary. What Jody said at the end of the episode about trying to bury her grief for the loss of her husband and son under work and religion, but having to realize that it was still there and hurt just as bad had me tearing up and rubbing my heart. Especially when she said, "I've been fooling myself to think that I could ignore it."
As this review isn't about me, but the boys, I'll just leave that with a sad, slow nod of understanding and bring it around to how the boys are coping with a few things. Namely, their relationship and the specific things impacting it. Sam had his say and shared his feelings several episode back, and while they've been working together since, those words are still standing between them like an invisible, impenetrable wall. They both have been guilty of the "ignore it and it'll go away" coping mechanism over the years -- Dean, admittedly, more so than Sam -- but Jody's right. The hurt and grief that they're both experiencing because of Sam's choices with the tablet trials and Dean's choices to save Sam is still there.
All ignoring it is going to do is push them further apart.
I think Sam almost started to approach an actual kernel of conversation about his observations and concerns regarding Dean there at the end, but Jody walked up and he stopped. At the rate they're unfolding this, I worry that the wall is still going to be up when this season comes to a close -- and I'd lay money on the fact that the Mark of Cain situation won't be resolved this season. I'd be okay with the latter, but would really like at least a hope for the former to be resolved before the hellatus.
I liked seeing how Jody is assimilating the hunting world into her reality -- knowing what to do and how to do it, but also protecting her team from the larger impacts of what's really behind the curtain. Also liked seeing how the boys related to her -- each through a bit of a different level of familiarity and intimacy (friendship-wise, I mean). For Sam, she was always 'Jody' and he was the first to realize how the evolving situations of the case would impact her. He acted as the buffer to Dean's brutal honesty -- never countering Dean's words, just softening them a bit for Jody's sake. He has real (platonic) affection for her and it's clear she sees and appreciates that. He's never going to let anything happen to her if he can at all help it and it's clear she knows that in how she talks to him.
For Dean, though, he showed his respect for her on a more professional level. In the Sheriff's station when Jody was looking troubled, he got her attention by calling her "Mills" -- which is a real guy-like, partnership approach. He also talked to her and presented information in the same manner he would any other hunter, pulling no punches. His way of protecting her was to not soften the blow, but to show her what she was truly facing. He cares about her just as he does anyone else they've been through hellish situations with, and I think she sees and appreciates that as well. She knows exactly where she stands with Dean and I think the cop in her depends on that level-setting approach.
Alex's story was okay -- I mean, there was nothing wrong with it, there just wasn't anything really new, either. The title referencing her many identities made me think of a Shel Silverstein poem -- and I think I remember a movie titled something close...several female names in a row? Martha Mary something? I can't put my finger on it, but it's tickling my memory. I'll google it later. The vamp family put me in the mind of a mix of the Benders and the family from that X-files episode called, "Home." If you know X-files, you know the one I mean. 'Mama' Vamp was fantastic -- the brother vamps were pretty paper-cutter, but Mama was chill-inducing. The fact that she didn't want to turn Alex because she wanted to watch her grow up was a direct lead-in to Jody's epiphany that she'd lost a daughter and was using Alex to fill that hole (and showed once more that even monsters have feelings...).
The one thing Alex running away because her humanity had reached it's saturation point with all the death and killing brought forth for me in respect to the boys was the irony of Dean's interrogation questions. She reacted. She didn't think it through. She didn't process what consequences her actions would trigger. She simply made a brash, quick choice in an attempt to save something. Sound familiar? Dean being the one to point all that out to her was perfect. I'm not sure if his words sank in for him or if he were asking because he'd already bridged that gap and made that connection -- they didn't really spend much time on the internal workings or perspectives of the boys -- but it sure sank in for me.
Really, the only "issue" I had with the episode was how they seemed to force-feed us with the impacts the Mark of Cain is having on Dean. It was unclear to me how long Dean was playing possum after being knocked unconscious -- they could have brought him around with that rough kick to the kidneys, or his grunt of pain could have been triggered because he was actually awake and unable to quiet it. Either way, he exploded into action from that moment and though he got himself knocked around a fair bit, he fought with the same level of dogged determination and ferocity he'd displayed when fighting off the demons in Cain's kitchen (before the Mark).
When he beheaded the vamp with that growled out, "Look at me, bitch!" line, all I could think about was Sam killing Gordon with razor wire and brute strength. Each brother showed a level of rage and might in those encounters that both fit the moment and seemed scary for their personalities. The way Dean gathered himself for that heartbeat after the vamp was dead and before he turned toward Sam reminded me of the way he looked up at Sam, blood splattered on his face, after killing that vamp in Bloodlust. Like he was empty of everything but anger and knew he must quiet that rage.
So, when Sam called him on it later in the denouement, saying that it seemed Dean enjoyed killing that vamp a little too much, I admit to tilting my head a bit. The Mark is definitely affecting Dean -- we saw clear evidence of that in Epi 9.18 when he had to rein himself in from killing Gadreel and kept having to stare himself down in mirrors. And while he's always been more of a black and white kind of guy vs Sam's "shades of gray" approach, his black and white are definitely getting more pronounced.
But his killing the vamp in that way seemed more...Monster-killer-Dean than Mark-of-Cain-Dean. He's always been enthusiastic about ganking monsters, especially those he deems uber-evil (like the kind that kidnap kids). So, Sam saying he was enjoying it a bit too much felt forced, like, "Hey, Everyone! Let us show you that Sam is noticing Dean's struggle! See how we have him mention it?"
I am not intending to critique Sam by saying that -- before some of you throw things at me -- just the writing/insertion of that moment/scene in this episode. I get what they're trying to do -- Dean is getting scarier and quicker to resort to violence. But I think they're going to have a hard time illustrating that in just a "regular" hunt unless they have Dean go BIG with the violence because (IMO) our boy has always been good at taking out the bad guys (and has experience in both Hell and Purgatory to drawn from).
It was actually very within character for Sam to initiate a conversation with Dean about observations he's having by critiquing something Dean had done or said. He's done that several times across several seasons trying to get his point across or at least get the ball rolling to talk about something.
Sam doesn't really have an easy 'in' concerning this whole situation. If he shows Dean compassion and concern, Dean will shrug it off, stuff it, or deny it and move on ("Yes, I'm okay. Stop asking me that."). If he criticizes what Dean's doing -- or points out that it seemed somewhat out of character for his brother -- Dean will get defensive and point out that he's doing his job (as he did).
I think the only thing Sam is going to be able to do if he truly wants to reach out to Dean about what is worrying him, would be to fall on his sword a bit and either retract the fact that he thinks Dean only sacrifices if he's not the one being hurt, or further explain what he meant when he said that, in the exact same situation, he wouldn't do the same thing to save Dean. Because Dean's little comment of, "I know: you wouldn't do the same for me," when he pulled the blood-drainage tube from Sam's arm and started untying him was pretty telling that those words are really close to the surface of Dean's consciousness.
Previews for next week appear to be another MotW episode -- and the kick-off for the SPN spinoff, Bloodlines, of which I know basically nothing (except that it's set in Chicago...where even Death likes the pizza) -- so to me that means the final three episodes will more than likely rip our collective hearts to shreds. I don't really see either of them getting out of this unscathed.
I hope there is a winner for the Abbadon v Crowley grudge match of the millennia (not sure who I want to win that one, though); that Metatron gets that twist (of his neck) that he's looking for; that Gadreel is redeemed on some level; that Cas is a good leader who is rewarded for stepping up; that there's at least hope for Sam and Dean to be brothers again; and that if the Mark of Cain isn't resolved (which I doubt it will be) we at least get a sense of the 'burden' Dean blindly took on without weighing the consequences.
But! I'm jumping waaaaay ahead. How about some AAAA lists?
- Sheriff Jody Mills. Full stop.
- Jody's full-on grin as the Impala pulls up next to her cop car.
- The Walking Dead shout-out.
- Show using a variation of the "Dean's Dirty Organ" theme -- that's my ringtone, baby!
- Dean taking on two vamps at once, one with dead man's blood, the other with pure rage.
- The expressions on both brother's faces as they listened to Jody talk about her judgement being clouded. The way they played it showed exactly what filter they were each listening through -- the perfect amount of sympathy, empathy, pain, and recognition from both Jared and Jensen.
- Sam's stubborn stoicism when being questioned (and gut-punched) by the Vamp Brothers. Atta boy.
- The cool eye effect of Alex being partially turned to a vamp -- that didn't happen to Dean until he was given the cure, and I liked it better as the initial vamp "process."
- The whole exchange between Jody and Alex about Jody's family -- not the subject matter, but the way Jody held herself and the look in her eyes when she replied, "Horribly." Just gutted me.
- The moving camera, unsteady effect when the boys were questioning Alex in the police station.
- The 'Fargo' shout-out with the wood chipper and Dean's satirical, "You need a hand with that? Heh...guess not."
- Jody, face bloody from her encounter with the Vamp Brothers, facing down our boys and insisting that she was coming along. Especially her, "If either of you so much as lays a hand on Alex, you'll have to go through me."
- The boys' dumbfounded -- yet impressed -- expressions as they watched her get into the back seat of the Impala after that statement.
- Dean bringing up the fact that he's been through the vamp detox before (and the fact that Jody didn't question it). Although, I have to admit, I wish we could have actually seen Dean go through that detox back in S6. Just saying.
- The ambiguity of whether or not Alex stayed with Jody. I hope we find out one day.
- Not really a 'meh' -- more of a "would have been nice if" -- but I didn't really get a great sense of why Alex ran away. We saw that flashback from her brother's story of her being the lure; it would have been a great balance if we'd seen her...I don't know, hiding and covering her ears or something during family dinner. Just me being picky; ignore.
- How many Mason jars of blood are actually in a human body? The vamp said he'd "tapped that keg" with Sam and yet he was able to stand up (albeit with Dean's help) and walk down stairs, then seemingly the next day he's basically fine. I liked the blurred vision, pale-skin effect of what the whole blood-draining was doing to Sam, but it would have been nice to see Sam having to lay low and regenerate blood, or at the very least see Dean take him to the ER.
- Jody's make-up after getting beat to hell was awesome. But Dean takes a 2x4 to the face and...nada. What's with that? Darn CW cream.
- Okay, you can blame my messed up ears on this, but...when Jody and the boys were moving quietly through the house to clear out the nest -- before Jody heard Alex moaning from the basement -- could you guys hear breathing? It sounded like some creepy dude breathing in every room of that house. Was that real or just part of my ear trauma?
- What IS the name of that movie that the title of this episode reminds me of? I tried to google and I don't know the right question to ask! LOL! I just know it's similar in some way!
THEN = Jody Mills. Pretty much all you need to know. NOW we see a teenaged girl being hauled forcibly down a hall by a deputy and into a holding cell. She protests being locked up, but when he gets a call about a B&E, and has to leave, she kinda freaks out about being left. The sheriff is on the way, so she won't be alone long, but it's still enough to freak her out. A short time later, a teenaged boy -- Cody -- shows up and has the keys and the girl is clearly terrified of him. He gets inside, tells her she can run all she wants but they will always find her.
He vamps out, but before he can advance on her, Sheriff Mills shows up and beheads him like a boss.
Next day(ish) the boys pull up, with Jody grinning big at the sight of the car. Like we all would be. Sam asks about her shoulder and she says it only hurts when it rains, then asks how they've been. They answer at the same time, just not the same answer.
Sam: Touch and go.
Jody: I know the feeling.
She shows them the vamp body she has in the trunk of her car -- Sam checking the mouth for fangs and verifying that it was, indeed, a vamp.
Dean: I don't know, Sammy. Looks like Jody might not need our help anymore.
Sam: Ah, they grow up so fast.
Dean: Don't they?
Jody's like, okay, hush you jokesters. She says there's more where this guy came from and tells them about the girl -- says she's practically feral, won't tell her name, but this guy went to a lot of trouble to get her and the girl is afraid of the rest coming. Sam accurately figures there's probably a nest, so the boys head inside to interrogate her. Claiming to be (plain clothes) FBI Agents Wilson and Fisher, they do a "dental check" -- which the girl totally calls them on. She knew they were doing a fang check and she knows they're hunters.
Dean: You're alive because hunters trained the sheriff.
Jody interrupts their questioning by saying they have a hit back on her DNA. Her name is Annie Jones and she was abducted in 2006 from where she lived with her grandmother. Dean has to wonder at a human living with vamps for 8 years -- and Sam noted that she has feeding scars on her neck. They realize she was a 'blood slave' to the nest and is protecting it -- Vampiric Stockholm Syndrome.
The boys return to question her, calling her Annie, but she insists that her name is Alex. Dean is trying to put it into human perspective, but Alex keeps defending her 'family'. Sam calls her out on the fact that she ran - there has to be a reason. She says it was time to move on.
Dean: People are getting hurt. You didn't think this through, did ya?
Alex: She killed Cody.
Dean: Because of a choice you made. These are the consequences.
Sam: You have two options: them or you. We can keep you safe, but you have to help us.
Alex (crying softly): If Mama finds me, she'll kill me.
Outside in the bull pen, Sam's running the location on Alex's bus ticket. Jody is leaning against the desk, looking troubled. Dean walks up with coffee.
Dean: Mills. You okay?
Jody mutters that the reason Alex didn't thank her for saving her was because she'd killed the girl's brother -- then chews on the fact that they changed her name to something so similar -- Annie to Alex. Meanwhile, Sam has found several possible nest locations (houses in foreclosure and the like) and the boys head to Nebraska, leaving Jody with "babysitting duty."
Dean wants her to have back up, but she says she can't expose her men to vampires -- especially as Frank still has nightmares about the barn episode from Walking Dead (you and me both, Frank). Sam tells her vamps are trackers and she suggests an old cabin outside of town, which the boys agree is smart. Sam also tells her about dead man's blood -- and she says she wouldn't say no to some of that. As the boys walk away down the hall, though, she looks a might nervous.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Nebraska, the poor lady who was one of two possibilities (the other one already having been killed) for selling Alex a bus ticket is killed by the remaining three Vamp Brothers. Talk about a bad day at work.
Jody and Alex arrive at Jody's cabin and more or less settle in. Jody has a lot of good memories of the cabin -- having come up here with her parents and then with her hubs and son. *sad* Alex wanders around and finds a picture of Jody and her hubs and son, finding out that they're dead.
Jody: There are about 1,000 more polite ways you could say that. Given the whole 'raised by monsters' thing, I'll give you a pass.
Alex: How did they die?
Back in Nebraska, the boys are checking out one of the houses on Sam's list. It's in foreclosure, but it's clear someone is squatting there and the windows are blacked out. They move around quietly with their flashlights, then hear the sound of the wood chipper. Hello, Fargo. Messy business, dontcha know. Dean heads out and gets the vamp's attention.
Dean: Hey! You need a hand with that?
The vamp turns and a hand is literally sticking out of the feeder end.
Dean: Heh. I guess not.
The vamp makes a move to attack Dean and Sam slams him in the head with a shovel. Done and done. The boys tie him up inside and begin to interrogate him. At one point, Dean jerks on the dude's hair and pulls his head up, demanding to know where the rest of the 'family' is. The dude won't tell him, so Dean walks away, but Sam's eyes track his brother for a fraction of a second before turning his attention back to the vamp.
Meanwhile (again) the rest of the family show up at the sheriff's station in Sioux Falls. Oopsie.
Dean is telling the vamp that blood-sucking vamps who chop people up are bad enough, but vamps that kidnap kids, well....
Dean: I'm gonna enjoy putting you down.
Anyone else hear shades of Nic Cage from "The Rock" with his, "I'm gonna enjoy guttin' you, boy," mocking line? Just me? Okay, then.
The vamp reveals that he knew this had to be about Alexis (name #3) and tells them she was a whiney teenager, angsting about all the blood and death, but had no problem being their human food lure. We see a flashback of Alex sitting at a bar, drawing the attention of some trucker dude, bringing him back to the house, introducing herself as Ann (name #4 - and isn't it interesting that she used a variation of her given name...) and then stepping aside as her brothers noshed on the dude.
Listening, Dean looks alternately sick and angry while Sam's like, "Oh, crap, Jody!"
Back at the cabin in SD, Jody comes in with firewood and can't find Alex. She wanders through the house calling her name and finds her asleep on the bed in Owen's room (Jody's little boy). Alex wakes (rather violently, then calms) and before Jody leaves the room she asks after her grandma (who has died), showing her child side a bit.
In Nebraska, the boys are each on their phones for different reasons. Dean's trying to reach Jody while Sam finds out that the vics worked at a bus station. They connect that the family figured out where Alex was heading and just then Jody calls back. Dean warns her that the vamps are on their way, but it's too late. They're there -- at the cabin. They grab Alex and knock out Jody. The boys head out as soon as they hang up -- but Dean kills the vamp first, of course. Never leave a live monster standing.
They get to the SD cabin early the next morning and find Jody knocked out, but just coming around. They help her up, figure out that the vamps are headed back to the nest...where they'll find their brother/son dead. Oopsie again.
Jody: I'm coming.
Dean: Hold on - you're hurt.
Sam: We can handle the nest on our own.
Ha! Yeah, that worked out splendidly, boys.
Jody: I don't give a fig about the nest! That girl was under my protection!
Dean tells Jody that Alex can't be trusted and that she's their human food lure. He says she's been feeding people to the vamps.
Jody: Whatever she did, they made her.
Dean: And that's a reason?
Jody: She's a kid!
Sam steps in and tells Jody that Dean is right -- at best, Alex's loyalties are screwed. Jody asks if Alex is on their list and Sam says no, but Dean replies 'not yet.'
Dean: With hunting comes harsh truths. This is a clean-up mission, not a rescue mission.
Sam (getting to the heart of it): What is this even about? You've known her for a day.
Jody gives him a withering look -- seriously, he should have been a pile of ash after that -- and heads to the car.
Jody: I'm coming, and if either of you so much as lays a hand on Alex, you'll have to go through me.
The boys stare after her like, wow, okay then!
In the nest, Mama Vamp has Alex down in a basement room where they have a little chat. Mama reveals that she was selfish -- she didn't turn Alex because she wanted to see her grow up. All the human feelings of angst and guilt and revulsion could have been taken away a long time ago if Mama had just turned her.
The boys and Jody end up outside and arm up. Dean tells Jody to stick close and that this is about cleaning out the nest first, Alex second. Jody looks at Sam who nods in agreement and reluctantly agrees. They sneak inside, separate, clearing rooms one-by-one. With the 1st floor clear, the boys head upstairs and tell Jody to stay put. But...she can hear moaning coming from the basement. A lot of moaning. So, she follows the sound.
Upstairs, Dean sees that Sam got himself caught with a shotgun to the back. Dean is forced to drop his knife. Before he can do anything else, a look of alarm crosses Sam's face and Dean turns, takes a 2x4 to the face, and drops like a rock.
Downstairs, Jody finds Alex on the bed, groaning, blood all over her mouth and her eyes totally blood-shot. She said she made her choice: Mama. Oopsie.
On the first floor, Sam's duct taped to a chair and Dean's in a pile on the floor across the room, his back to Sam, still unconscious. One of the Vamp Brothers wants to know which of them killed his wood chipper brother. He gut-punches Sam with the shot gun, but Sam won't say a word. The Vamp Brother says they have to hit the road now and want to pack a lunch. He gets out a bucket and some tubing. Sam does a bit of a mental gulp at that.
Downstairs, Jody is tied up, hands over head, and finds out that Mama fed Alex some of her blood -- now all Alex needs to do is feed. Jody and Mama end up having a bit of a caustic heart-to-heart of sorts about how they both were basically using Alex to fill a void inside of them. Jody realizes that Mama's "Alex" died, so that's why she changed Annie's name. Mama doesn't so much like that Jody is so astute and beats the ever-lovin' crap out of her.
Upstairs, Sam is getting pretty much drained dry -- filling two Mason jars plus the bucket. I mean, seriously, our favorite little brother was on the edge there. He's pale and his vision is blurring. One brother Vamp says to the other to get the "short haired one ready." The 2nd Vamp Brother kidney-kicks Dean hard and Dean grunts, but either was already awake, or was brought around by that kick because when the vamp leans over him with a knife, Dean comes up with a vial of dead man's blood and injects it into the vamp.
He lurches up and starts to fight off the other guy, but is still a bit off his game as he's thrown across a table and into a wall. Sam watches through blurred eyes as Dean fights, gets knocked around, then builds up enough rage to turn the tables on the vamp, pressing it against the wall and pushing the knife toward his throat.
Dean: Look at me. Look at me, BITCH!
The vamp complies, his eyes wild, his fangs out, and Dean pushes the blade home, beheading him. Pausing a heartbeat to gather himself, Dean hurries over to Sam and unhooks him from the blood drain tube, working on the tape next.
Sam (weak, groggy): Dean....
Dean: Yeah, I know. You wouldn't have done the same for me.
Jody, however, has it under control. More or less. Or at least she does as soon as Alex shoves a syringe of dead man's blood into her Mama's back. As the boys make it to the bottom of the stairs -- Sam leaning heavily on Dean (and if they were in such a hurry to save Jody, why didn't Dean just go down there? Why did he bring Sam, who would also need his help and slow him down?) -- they see Jody standing over the Mama Vamp, her machete out, her face a gory mess. Jody looks at Alex.
Jody: Don't watch this, sweetheart.
Whack! Buh-bye, Mama Vamp! I have to imagine they ended up beheading the other, dead man's blood vamp upstairs, too, though they didn't show it.
Later, back at the SD cabin, Sam and Dean are outside, both looking no worse for the wear. Sam is giving Dean a hard time about his "look at me, bitch" line, and says the it looked like Dean was enjoying killing that vamp a bit too much.
Dean: That's our job. To kill things that need killing. Last I checked, taking pleasure in that's not a crime.
Sam starts to say something else, but Jody comes out side -- looking a lot worse for the wear, but at least on her feet. She thanks the boys for coming and for saving Alex and curing her. The boys both apologize to her about Alex -- they had been wrong about her.
Jody: You were right about me. My judgement was clouded. Working this case brought feelings back. Feelings I've been trying to bury for years under work...religion. Dating -- and we know how that worked out. But it was still there underneath. The grief. Dunno what that means for me, just that I've been fooling myself to think that I could ignore it.
I loved they way they both watched her and listened so closely. Sam reminded her that she killed Alex's sire and got the blood, so they really only did part of the work.
Dean: Speaking from experience, it'll be a rough couple of days, but she should pull through. You sure you don't want us to stay?
Jody says she's good and Sam asks what happens next, after Alex is cured. She doesn't answer and instead of ending with the boys, we end on a scene between a detoxing Alex inside the cabin and Jody sitting next to her on the bed. Alex wants to confess to some of the things she's done while living with the vamp family. Jody basically tells her she doesn't have to.
Jody: I know. Whatever you want from me, I'll give it. If you want, I'm here. What you've been through...losing everyone you've known or loved...no one can understand that.
Alex: You can.
Like I said, I hope we get to see one day if Alex stays with Jody. It would be good for Jody to be able to be a mom again.
Okay, that's it folks! I'll do my best to be on time next week. Hope to hear your thoughts (and I know I owe a couple of you replies from last week).
Thanks for reading -- slainte!