I love Jodi Mills. I mean it. I do. And every single time she shows back up on the screen I live in fear for 50 minutes that this is going to be the time they kill her off. See what you do to me, Show? Stop making me love your characters so much, dammit.
This may be a shorter Ramble. It's not been the easiest week and next week holds the promise of a bit more drama and emotion, but one thing I've learned about this life of ours is that it goes on. And talking with you guys about our Show is something that makes me happy, so there you go. Thanks for understanding.
So, this one? Wasn't really about the Winchesters at all.
I loved the title of this one: Don't You Forget About Me. Because I'm a ginormous geek, the first thing I thought of was The Breakfast Club. And I think I was humming that Simple Minds song through the first 10 mins of the episode (Earworm warning: Hey hey hey heeey! Ooooo oh! Won't you...come see about me....). But as the story unfolded and we saw who the bad guy was (giving Claire the opportunity for an ultimate I Told You So moment), I realized that the writers were aiming both at the Sioux Falls high school setting of the mayhem and a message that was a bit deeper: you can't run from your past.
Jodi voluntarily took Alex in; seeing a child in pain and being a mother who never really healed from losing her own child, I don't think her conscience gave her a choice. Claire was a different story. The Winchesters asked Jodi for that favor. But Jodi being Jodi, she went all in with both of them, trying to offer them normalcy: family, home, opportunity for a life beyond the horrors they've known in their youth. And she was really starting to make strides, it seemed.
They were sitting down to family dinners (of chicken actually shaped like chicken) and talking about safe sex and having a semblence of sibling angst and high school drama and college classes. (ASIDE: Did anyone else not realize that Claire was older than Alex? I totally did not.) But like our boys know all too well, a "normal" life is truly hard to come by when you've stared into the abyss of the supernatural and had it stare back at you. Alex's past as a vampire pet and human lure wasn't just going to be left behind in Nebraska, no matter how normal Jodi tried to make her present.
The lesson, I think, that's captured in that harsh, near-death reminder is that you literally cannot escape your past. Instead you must learn from it. You can reinvent yourself, but you do so with the awareness of where you came from and the ability to cope with your ghosts...especially if those ghosts have sharp pointy teeth and a thirst for your blood. I think Claire knew this better than Alex and, possibly, Jodi. I think both Alex and Jodi just wanted to forget. To leave their nightmares behind a heavy curtain of "not me anymore" and carry on.
But Claire, while not going about it in the best way, knew to be wary and watchful and prepared. She just needed to have someone, as my dad used to say, jerk a knot in her tail and coach her into being prepared and show respect to the person who is keeping her sheltered and fed. And who kinda loves her a little bit, by the way. The primary thing that was getting in Claire's way was the gigantic chip on her shoulder from the bum deal handed to her by life. Yes, her dad was basically consumed by an angel and her mom was kidnapped, drained, and killed. Yes, she had no choice in the matter and her life was turned inside out. However, because of the Winchesters, she has also been shown that there are people who care about her and are ready to offer her opportunities, she just has to be willing to accept that fear of rejection (Alex) didn't equal hate and insisting on structure (Jodi) didn't equal indifference.
I liked Jodi's proud smile when Alex into the truck, the tension that immediately appeared in her shoulders when Claire began talking about the "case," and the utter fear that sat at home on her face just before she tugged up her bootstraps and waded into the safe sex conversation. She may not be their mother, but she sure is giving it a helluva shot. I liked Alex immediately offering herself to Wheeler to save Claire, willing to go back to her old life just to save the only people in the world she actually could love. And I liked Claire's nod after they killed Henry the Vamp together, finally getting that she could have a family again, if she allowed herself to accept them.
The Jodi Mills Home for Wayward Girls aside, I also liked the level of involvement with the boys in this episode. Every once in awhile, they need a lighter episode (as in, lighter time commitment) and this method is much better (IMO) than having it be one or the other of them gone. The storyline has been plausibly set up by past events for Castiel to be in the wind, searching for ways to draw out Amara. When he's not wounded, it's rather common place for Cas to be out and about, so there was nothing there to trigger the boys into thinking his absence was odd. And having Amara gone to ground was also believable since we saw her weakly collapse against the tree after carving her message into Castiel's flesh.
It was a calm in the storm moment, giving time for Sam to find weird animal viral videos on YouTube and for Dean to scour KS for the most delicious-looking unhealthy burger in the tristate area. And seriously, there are some goooooood burger joints in KS, folks. There's a place here in Lawrence called The Burger Stand that would entice Dean to just move in, I'm telling ya.
I also liked how they each took turns talking to Claire, both using their strengths to try to help her adjust (since her living with Jodi was their idea in the first place). Sam with his soft, empathetic logic of, "The monsters are always going ot be there. A chance at a family? That won't be." Dean with his steely-eyed, guff admonition of not biting the hand that feeds you (and protects you, clothes you, gives you a chance to be more than who you are). I like that neither of them outright dismissed Claire's insistence that there was something hinky going on, but also respected Jodi's wishes to not make more of it than what it was--y'know, until they found the dude hanging from the flagpole and all.
And oh my gosh, I loved that dinner scene. And how it wasn't just Dean diving face-first into the mashed potatoes but that Sam also commented on how great it was to have a real, home cooked meal. And their mutual discomfort during the safe sex conversation was awesome.
My favorite moment, though, was the end when they arrived at the school. Though realistically, Sam probably should have had a few broken bones--his arm at the very least--from being whaled on with a 2x4 by an angry teenaged vamp, I loved that when Dean showed up, he didn't go straight to saving Sam's ass but to cutting Alex down and helping Jodi stand up. It reminded me of that scene in The Boondock Saint when the McManus brothers are in the bar brawl and Murphy is momentarily outnumbered by several Russians. Someone goes to help him, calling out a warning to Connor and Connor shouts back with utter confidence, "He can take care of himself!" Which, of course, he's right: Murphy bashes his attackers over their heads with a couple of whiskey bottles. Done and done.
Dean knew that even though Sam might be a little battered, his brother can take care of himself and moved with utter confidence toward the real victims: Alex, Jodi, and Claire, trusting Sam to handle the vamp kid. To me, that kept things in balance, shining the light on the brothers' skill, trust, and ability and not turning the audience's focus from sympathy toward the women to sympathy toward the brothers.
Like I said, this one wasn't about the Winchesters, even though their fingerprints were all over it. It was about damaged people of varying walks of life figuring out how to come together and build something worthwhile and maybe even a little beautiful out of the cracked and broken fragments of their past. And I think it told that story pretty nicely, in the confines of a SPN script.
How about some lists?
- "I'm not going to survive hundreds of monster attacks just to get flat-lined by some double donut monstrosity--" "The Elvis!"
- Dean's face when Sam pushes his Elvis Burger away. Heh.
- Jodi's "mom smile" when Alex gets into the sheriff truck.
- Family dinner FTW.
- The boys enjoying having a sit-down, home-cooked meal. "It's actually shaped like chicken."
- The boys trying to leave the table the minute sex is mentioned.
- "If we can't talk about it, we shouldn't be doing it." OMG I am sooooo remembering that line when Mo Chuisle gets bigger. Thank you, Jodi.
- Dean's repeated use of "What?" to avoid any direct involvement in the conversation. His expression, too, man. That was priceless.
- "Whoever you're with needs to suit up. Always. No pulling up the drawbridge early."
- Dean's "This is fun" followed by the three incredulous looks tossed his way.
- Jodi NOT dying (though man she got the ever lovin' crap beat out of her...again).
- Jodi telling Claire she was right.
- Alex offering herself to save Claire.
- "It had to be the leg. I'm gonna need bionics." (Seriously, no joke. That crack to her leg had my stomach turning inside out.)
- Alex and Claire both taking part in killing Henry the Vamp.
- Jodi's face when she realized the girls had cooked her breakfast. *rubs heart*
- "That's what's so scary about family: gives you so much to lose."
- "I solemnly swear not hunt like a dumbass."
- Claire's excitement at the prospect of being trained to be a cop. I think that's a good compromise.
- Sam announcing they had ribs and two tubs of sauce, followed by Dean's fist-pump "Yes!"
- "As long as everyone wears a condom, we'll be fine." "I want that bumper sticker."
- Meh, not much here, really. Except maybe Sam walking away from that vamp beating without so much as a bruise on that pretty face. Maybe I'm just not in the mood to be picky.
- Primarily those Amara, Castiel, Lucifer ones hanging over our heads. I am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out with the whole possibly defeat of The Darkness or threat of joined forces, the fact that Crowely is still in this thing, the ramifications of Billie the Reaper's promise of "dead means dead," Dean's 'connection' to Amara...there's a lot still to come this season!