Be careful, what you ask for
Oscar Wilde once said ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple’. Indeed. Neither are the answers this show has finally begun to give after throwing its audience into turmoil. Well, it put my emotions in a meat grinder more than once and just when I think it can’t get any worse, they go and prove me wrong.
In Illinois Veritas! After watching the episode for the first time, the title described pretty much how I felt – that I wasn’t able to handle the episode, more or less. Now I’ve calmed down a bit, but still wonder: how am I going to write anything coherent about it?
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! great! Most of us believe that it’s important to be truthful to each other, especially to people close to us. But sometimes we forget how terrible a weapon truth can be. People have lied and murdered for the truth or for what they believed to be true. Used with purpose, truth can be the foulest aggression that can drive people to kill themselves (like that poor waitress).
Unfortunately, there never is ‘one real truth’. Truth is, mostly, dependent on the viewpoint of the one claiming to tell the truth. That standpoint gives any truth its colour, often tinted with moral, religious or social shades, accompanied by emotions that also influence the description of it. If three people witness an accident, their accounts will diverge. Though seeing the same scene, their experience of the moment is different, according to their state of mind and soul.
If I had to swear to tell the whole truth someday, I doubt I could do that, as I don’t trust my account of whatever situation would be the whole truth. I could attest to what I believe to be true.
With Veritas in town, I might even say more than one unpleasant thing.
We lie often in our everyday lives, don’t we? Sometimes a neighbour might come over at a moment we wanted to be alone and yet we say ‘nice to see you, come on in’ (well, I assume most of us who have been brought up to be polite, as I have, would do that). A friend asks for our help with some work in the garden, and though we’d rather stay in and watch a film, we reply ‘sure, happy to be of assistance’, if a good friend is terribly in love with a guy we can’t abide, how often do we say ‘oh, he’s so nice’ before we (hopefully, if the relationship is close enough) say ‘I think he’s a bastard’, if we don’t like the children of our friends, we still cheer ‘oh, how sweet they are’.
These might be what people call white lies, but – bottom line – we are not being honest. Not entirely. I don’t think this essentially wrong. A truth told at an inappropriate moment can hurt more than we could deal with.
We see the effects of unconditional truth thrown into our faces in this episode. The young waitress hears all those nasty things that others think about her, and she finally rings her sister for help – only to hear it rubbed in by the one person who should be at her side, eh? Well, she does kill herself already, then, and BigGerson’s is not a happy place this time (by the way – I love the reference of the show to the wonderful Bad Day at Black Rock).
The art of lying
Dean, just as his brother, is a master at the art of lying. It’s the branch they excel at. They are con men. And Dean does here what he does very well – he lies to his brother, yet again, continuing the old Winchester tradition of lying to one another (this time, however, to bring him down). Mostly the purpose of those lies has been protection of the other. Protection from bad news, from fear, from horrors experienced. And we somewhat admired the Winchesters for it, as it meant that they took on the burden of knowing of unspeakable things on their own shoulders, keeping it lighter for the other.
Those are the kind of lies we allow, don’t we? We accept the notion that sometimes it might be better to tell a strategic lie when the truth could cause harm to another.
The Winchesters have also always been experts at bluffing – another kind of lie. With a bluff we try to make someone else believe that we have a goal, a skill or an idea we don’t actually own. Gamblers use this tactic. Athletes do so, too, like pretending they’d run to the right when they plan to take a turn to the left.
Another field of their expertise is the kind of lie you’d call jocose that means lies told in jest, and everyone present is supposed to understand those (hopefully). We’ve seen Sam and Dean shine at teasing and sarcasm. Plus they have also lied by omission more than once, that is: leaving important information out.
We, as fans, have never really protested against those. I think because we, ourselves, use those kinds of lies sometimes. I know I do. I can be very sarcastic, and I haven’t told the truth to protect others, too.
But what happens now in our show is very much Machiavellian. In his book ‘The Prince’ the Italian noble claims ‘never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception’. It’s the true art of war: deception.
And, our favourite characters are at war. Again. This time with each other – or, well, it seems like Dean is in a state of mind very much on the verge of a serious battle. Sam lied to Dean before in this season about his condition because he still doesn’t know what’s going on and how to explain it all.
Dean, now, deceives Sam to find more information about what he might be while secretly planning to kill his brother in his sleep, as he later admits to Veritas. He’s freaked out, and I can’t blame him. But this way he distances himself even more from his brother.
From a psychological point of view there are three main reasons (among others) why people lie: Fear – of possible consequences involved when the truth came out, also to escape punishment. Harming others – tell a lie to attack someone else, indirectly, by telling lies about them. Self-Image – boost one’s own image in the eyes of their peers or friends/families to get closer to the limelight, often to be replaced by embarrassment when the truth is revealed.
Dean probably is governed by fear. And fear is, as we know, the sister of aggression. It will lead Dean to handle this more and more aggressively in the course of this episode. You could also call it desperate. Bitter. He assumes Lucifer came back in Sam’s skin. Who wouldn’t behave as irritated as Dean does?
He’s playing various roles at present: the caring brother, the industrious FBI agent, the loving partner (who actually doesn’t dare to speak to Lisa)! thankfully, he’s had some training in pretending since he’s been a kid. He does it convincingly.
Sam’s FBI guy seems a bit menacing, though. He detects with perfect clarity that the woman they’re asking about her suicidal sister is lying. On the other hand, anyone who read Ekman’s ‘Emotions Revealed’ might have done so. There is a short moment of satisfaction on his face. But basically they have no idea as of yet what’s going on.
They will learn of the Marathon Man sequence later (one of the grossest scenes in Supernatural history, to my taste. Any dentists out there: never put Frank Talk on the tv in your practice. In fact: don’t have any tv screens there at all. You never know what obsession might befall your patients. On a second thought: that perv touched the doc’s daughter. I can’t say I can’t understand why the dentist loses it).