I broke my own rule. I read reviews and comments about “Hibbing 911” before “Threads” was completely finished. I just couldn’t help myself. I liked the episode so much that I was curious if the Supernatural family was basking in the rare phenomenon of a universal love fest. What I found was very interesting. The reaction to the story was far from unanimous. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a varied range of opinions about an episode. Still, I have to count myself among those who really, really liked “Hibbing 911”. I laughed all the way through it. Superb acting, witty dialog, familiar characters, careful attention to detail and a token broment all blended together to make this a first class episode for me.
First of all, putting Sheriff Mills and Sheriff Hanscum together was a stroke of genius. Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster, who partnered for the first time as Jody and Donna respectively, were such a strong acting team that they commanded equal stage presence in scenes with Jared and Jensen (which is shockingly impressive). Briana’s delivery of Donna’s homespun reactions and colloquialisms was hilarious, paired with Kim’s expressive peeks into Jody’s no-nonsense self-reliance and confidence.
Kim Rhodes tweeted “Because it bears repeating: I am the Tommy Lee Jones to [Briana’s] Will Smith. #Supernatural #womeninblue” [a reference to the movie Men in Black]. Jody was the seasoned veteran who not only knew about the bizarre and unexplainable but had to now teach the newbie what is actually out there in the big bad world. Donna was the naïve rookie who delivered fast, punchy dialogue. Their characters were perfectly balanced. Jody’s hard-core, all-business outside hid her sentimental pushover tenderness, paired with Donna’s powder puff exterior that masked the don’t-mess-with-me core – “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” as Doug put it.
The continuity, strength and believability of these two supporting characters elevated this episode over so many other MotW episodes. We had met both of these people before. We knew their history and could immediately jump back into their lives. We learned that Alex stayed with Jody and they are struggling through a semi-normal mother-teenager relationship. We met Donna’s ex-husband, Doug, who turned out to be as much of a jerk as previously advertised. Jody connected with both Sam and Dean’s primary storylines, incrementally adding just one detail each to their situations.
In short, we were invested in these characters. Their stories were not only a part of the Supernatural universe, they expanded it. Their characters grew. They made new friends. They gained knowledge and skill. Like Bobby, Ellen, Gadreel, Kevin, Castiel, Crowley and a few others you could probably mention, their characters were worth watching. They carried their own stories with finesse and their own unique style. They were good. That is what made this episode for me vastly superior to “Ask Jeeves” for example, or what makes Alice love and me * ahem* dislike the Ghostfacers episodes. I didn’t like the farcical, rich family in “Ask Jeeves” so the episode didn’t work for me. Alice really likes Ed and Harry so she laughs at their jokes and enjoys their stories while I don’t.
I have to be honest and acknowledge that I probably loved this episode because I recognized so much of myself in Jody’s character. Jody reacted exactly the way I feel when faced with super happy individuals. All my life, people have said to me “Smile! Why are you so serious?”
Whenever that happens, I want to roll my eyes
and fight back the gag reflex that results from the rule that everyone has to be perky all day long.When Jody said, “I haven’t been able to shake that ray of sunshine since I got here” I found a kindred spirit. Then she said out loud what everyone ever would want to say, “Oh for the love of God. What is wrong with you?? You are just a douche!” to defend a sweet woman who was letting an insulting bully walk all over her. Jody was a confident woman who wasn’t afraid to tell off a jerk. I like this girl. I also identified with her worrying about children while she was at an out-of-town business conference, sneaking away to call home when she was bored and stuck with people she didn’t know. I admired her self-assuredness to investigate the suspected monster situation by herself. She wisely informed the experts of the possibility of trouble but said she would call if the situation escalated. I identified completely with her having to tell off the vendor who tried to talk to her and Donna about “girly” guns, having had people frequently ignore, assume or insult my executive standing based on gender. Both she and Donna took their jobs seriously and were obviously accomplished in their field, yet they were not portrayed as obsessed about their careers, nor lacking multi-faceted lives. They were single women, one with a family, one without, who were competent in their careers yet simultaneously had personal frailties and challenges. To me, that was realistic and substantial character development.
So many other details added to the entertainment of “Hibbing 911”:
· “What the cuss?? A vampire?”
Briana’s delivery of that line makes my top 10 best lines of the series (right up there with Kevin’s “What’s happening?”). I laugh out loud every time I hear it! During the episode’s live tweet, I sent Jenny Klein, the writer of “Hibbing 911”, a tweet saying “This is priceless! Great job.” To which she replied, “Thank you….she ROCKS – [Briana] kiiiiled that line.”
· “Could we get real please?” Jody is so no-nonsense. She had no patience for the sheriff and his deputy stone-walling her! Then she told Sam, “Screw You Winchester!” She may be my new idol.
· How about Donna saying “Stuff you Dean!”, and “Hakuna Matata, lady”. Crowley has competition for best delivery of superb snarky lines!
· Donna tapping her teeth to emphasize that she was freaked out by the vampire sighting. Another wonderful comedic addition by Briana.
· Blood splatter all over a care-free smiley face was so perfectly Supernatural. A horror show that inserts irony and humor into the gore. They did it again with blood pouring out of the bottom hole of the dumpster. I laughed. Hubbie was all “Ohhhh, grossss!”
· Only 24 chairs were set up for the plenary session at this convention? It’s supposed to cover all of Minnesota and the Dakotas! There were obviously more than 24 people at the convention. That scene was so awkwardly bad it was mockingly funny.
· Dean can do puppy dog eyes!
· Last week it was Deano, and this week it is Jodio. I think they’re starting a trend!
· Attention to detail with the sunblock.
· Loved that Jody called Sam. Again, continuity that they have the closer, more comfortable, friendship.
For all its high points, there were a few low points in this show, though, that have not gone unnoticed. I have to scratch my head a little at the idea that vampires will eat the flesh of their victims. Granted, the point was being made that an ethical vampire was trying to teach his family to not be wasteful. The concept of honoring a kill by consuming or using all parts of the body is not new, and is commendable to the extent that a killer’s respect for the circle of life mitigates their brutality. So this addition to canon is shaky, and probably completely unnecessary, but I’m willing to give it a pass to see if it is ever explained further or mentioned again. I also didn’t understand the need to bring up a transgender monster. Why go there at all? It wasn’t relevant to the story, in fact it wasn’t relevant to anything at all. There has been so much discussion about Supernatural’s treatment of sexuality, gender biases, etc., why in the name of good writing would they choose to use this particular subject as the object of Dean’s frustration…yet again?? There was also the fat shaming. In contrast, that seemed logical to me since the subject was raised so significantly when Donna’s character was introduced, so that got a pass from me also.
I also have to admit that I really wish we were being given a great deal more myth arc each week. This is not a criticism of this individual episode as much as it is a preference for the season. The formula for these past several episodes is reminiscent of season 1 – a half-hour monster story bookended with five minutes of the brother’s quest both at the beginning and at the end of each show. Early in the series, the plots were eventually woven around the myth arc – Sammy’s headaches turned visions, powers of special children, finding messages from Dad, etc. because we had to be slowly pulled into the complexity of the Supernatural universe. After nine seasons of being to Hell and back with both boys, though, I’d like a great deal more of myth arc to start appearing in season 10. Many viewers are thrilled with the back-to-basics approach and I have to allow that they are probably due for a few simpler episodes given the sweeping stories of the past few seasons, but I always miss the bigger picture.
There was a little myth arc threaded into the sheriff’s hunt, though, which we can look at together…
When Dean challenged the deputy by saying, “Is there a problem?” then said, “Oh, pal, the FBI doesn’t do cute”, did anyone else think that Dean got just a little too intense there? It looked like he might start a fight with the deputy.
That’s Dean’s “I could drop you in a second” look!
The first time down this road, the Mark made Dean progressively more impatient, then rude, then combative with people. It really seems to be happening again. Dean seems to be retracing all the same steps in his journey to having the Mark “push him”. Last time the big step change came when he got his hands on The First Blade, which hopefully is well and completely out of his reach this time. Still, the Mark needs to be fed by him killing, repeatedly, brutally, and with increasing frequency so it looks like Dean is fighting for his life here. He reined it back in when he offered the olive branch to the deputy, but then the vampire kill scene? At first I thought the MoC had taken over, but after watching the fight a few times, it actually looked more like Purgatory Dean then MoC Dean. Dean’s lethal fighting skills were super-charged in Purgatory, and that looked like the Purgatory scenes more than a blinded by rage, MoC bloodbath. So was he telling the truth when he told Sam,
Dean: Yeah, you know for the first time since I’ve been back, I didn’t feel like the Mark was pushing me.
Sam: First time?
Dean: All I know is that back there killing those vamps, I felt like me again.
Sam: Alright. So, that’s ….good. Right?
Sam: K, Well let’s go with that.
With “Americana”, the brothers’ “family bonding” music, in the background, I melted, instantly. Those boys could talk about taking out the garbage to that song and I would get all mushy inside. Then Dean began rubbing the Mark on his arm. Was he reflecting on what he has to constantly fight within him? Was it nagging at him just then? Was he lying to Sam that he felt like himself? To me, Dean looked sincere when he admitted that for the first time, he felt like himself. If that was the first time he felt like he was acting independently, though, he was de facto admitting that stabbing the maid repeatedly was MoC fueled, as we suspected. Last episode, he pulled it back in when talking to Cole, but his fighting skills were pretty darn impressive in that alley (just as impressive as his vampire-killing precision). We are probably not going to know for sure how much is Dean and how much is the Mark until Dean himself tells us (and Sam), though.
The Stories… and the Truth
Given that Dean has been able to control himself lately, it seems that he is more aware of what is happening to him this time so rather than lying to himself, he is accepting and fighting it internally. Had he been lying to Sam up to this point, though, or was the truth too painful for him to admit? Why was Sam so calm and accepting of Dean’s denials? After what they both just went through, can Sam really afford to be patient and trusting? I get why Dean isn’t showing his panic. Dean hides all his emotions. As he told Jody “Nothing I can’t handle”.
That’s consistent with his character. He let his frustration and worry slip out when talking about his lack of progress on the MoC research,
so his reactions are understandable if not overtly being shared with us through conversations with Sam (or Castiel). Sam may also need to believe that his efforts to find and revive Dean were not in vain and it is still possible to save his brother. His responses to Dean’s confession were more questions than reassurances, betraying his own unacknowledged confusion and fear about Dean’s future.
Both boys seem to be holding onto truths they need, or want, to believe rather than the tragic reality that is barreling down on them. Did Sam really “forget” to tell Jody about finding Dean, or is he holding his breath waiting to see if Dean is actually rescued? If he doesn’t truly believe the crisis has passed, he may not want to prematurely send out an “all clear” announcement. Neither of them really knows what the “truth” of the situation is yet.
Monsters…and their Families
“Hibbing 911” again examined the idea of an ethical monster. Starr (the hippie vampire) portrayed Sheriff Len Cuse as a ruthless killer who turned innocent victims into his family, then “taught us everything we know” about stalking and consuming prey. He professed to having found his conscience, though. “Don’t you want to know why I stopped?” Obviously he was stalling for time, but this season has gone out of its way to give us detailed stories about monsters’ lives, perspectives and motivations. Some have embraced their grisly powers: Starr, Rowena, Olivia and Tasha (Kate’s sister) but others have fought to not lose their humanity: Len, Kate and Dean. Then we were shown humans who almost became monsters but were saved before they lost their humanity, namely Cole and Sam.
The monsters’ families also played a significant role in their chosen paths. The presence of their families’ love saved Cole, Dean and Caroline. Olivia’s family did what they had to do to save her life, but when they could no longer support her, the short rein they held on her turned out to be a noose that choked her to death. Others like Sheriff Cuse and Kate, didn’t have (or couldn’t risk) the support of human love, and were destroyed or abandoned by their supernatural families. We have yet to see if Rowena will be the death, or the redemption, of Crowley (and visa-versa). If this pattern predicts future plots, Sam will indeed be able to save Dean…and maybe Jimmy Novak’s family will be able do what the supernatural angels have as of yet failed to do – save Castiel.
Like many (but certainly not all) Supernatural fans, I have a strong preference for the brothers’ myth arc to be laced heavily into every episode. I have perhaps been spoiled by seasons where their mystical story vastly overshadowed their hunting activities. Would it have been so hard for Sam to have opened up to Jody about his doubts? Alternately, Sam could have pressed Dean about “being pushed by the Mark” so we could have learned more about Dean’s status and Sam’s thoughts. Season 10 isn’t following that model, though. It is presenting us with plots that alternate between all or nothing at all on the brothers’ stories. So, we have a choice. We can let go of the story we want to hear or expect to be told, and accept that truths are often slowly forthcoming. Critics argue that we can be getting so much more. I actually agree with them, but we can simply choose to celebrate exceptionally good episodes with great characters and light-hearted comedy as we wait for the tragedy to hit our boys yet again. Just like last week, we can be like Sam and say, “K, let’s go with that”…..for now. I loved “Hibbing 911”. So that’s good…right?
Screencaps courtesy of www.screencapped.com