This week’s hunt in Supernatural’s “Halt and Catch Fire” was reminiscent of early episodes in the series’ history. A kill, a drive, a hunt with lessons that paralleled the brothers’ larger story arc, some problem solving, a win, and a broment in or around Baby. Felt good, didn’t it? Just the boys, the people to be saved, the monster to be hunted and the moral of the story. You know – Saving People, Hunting Things, Then Family Business.
This episode’s “business” showed us a deeply reflective Dean. The messages relating to Dean’s story arc weren’t obtuse, contrived or heavily veiled in symbolism, but they also weren’t so blaringly repetitious that they became tiresome. Just simple comments, thoughts and an insightful discussion that moved the story line, accompanied by poignant music. So what did we learn?
Forgiveness and Redemption
I promised myself I would not talk about forgiveness this week. After the long, dynamic, passionate conversation on forgiveness that occurred in the comments following last week’s “Threads” article, I thought that subject had been exhausted. I was determined to ignore any subtle references or inferences about forgiveness that might appear in this week’s episode. So, of course, that was the explicit subject of the heartfelt reflection from Dean to the co-ed! Dean himself raising the subject undeniably confirms that forgiveness is a major theme of the season and we are on the right track! So, I give up! Let’s talk about forgiveness.
Dean: “Truth is, I can relate. I’ve made more mistakes than I can count. Ones that haunt me day and night.”
Delilah: “So how do you deal?”
Dean: “Whiskey. Denial. I do my best to make things right. Whatever that may be. For you, maybe it’s coming clean. You know, finding a way to ask for forgiveness. But not breaking the bank at your local florist. I mean, real forgiveness. You can’t just bury stuff like this. You got to deal with it.”
What a breakthrough! Dean heard Charlie and Sam’s preaching that burying pain doesn’t work in the long run. Dean admitted that he tries to drink it away, and then refuses to deal with it when he is sober. An interesting psychology question – isn’t acknowledging that you are in denial mean that you actually aren’t in denial? Doesn’t denial mean that either you don’t believe there is a problem or you don’t believe you are the cause of the problem? If you are aware of the pain and the need to address that pain then I would term it avoidance, not denial. Anyway, Dean may not be ready to accept or deal with his issues but his speeches to both Delilah and later to Andrew certainly implied that he knows what he needs to do once he is ready. He understands that he needs to ask forgiveness for whatever wrongs he believes he’s inflicted, and he obviously believes it enough to sincerely impart the same advice to someone whose wounds aren’t as scarred over as Dean’s. That’s a start.
Maybe, in a small way, Dean is ready, though. If we listened closely, he actually did start to acknowledge and apologize for the long list of things he feels guilty about, going all the way back to the very first day he reentered Sam’s life. Looking around at the coeds on the campus, Dean very nonchalantly commented to Sam:
“Sorry I ever made you leave.”
Dean didn’t make Sam leave college. He asked, or maybe even begged, Sam to help him look for their dad, but Sam made the choice. Then when Jessica died, Sam found his own motivation to leave school. Yet this casual remark reveals how Dean views the situation. Dean feels he pulled Sam back into hunting, and Dean found a way to apologize for it. What a perfect way to go down the road of redemption. Begin at the beginning, taking one small step at a time.
MoC…and Letting Go
Firstly, what’s with Dean’s appetite?? How about eyeing co-eds? Deano, my boy, they are 15 years younger than you! Get it together! I actually felt both of these “jokes” were overdone to the point of being ridiculous. Dean might be satisfying his murderous cravings by substituting gluttony and lust (or maybe the MoC is intensifying all vices?) but did he suddenly forget how to feed himself? A few weeks ago he was talking with his mouth full of hamburger. This week he was talking with noodles hanging out of his mouth.
I don’t have any problem showing his cafeteria tray overflowing with all the tempting junk food offered in a campus dining hall (I may have been guilty of that myself once or twice. Free sundaes? Free, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? Bye bye good judgment & moderation!). I do, however, object to dumbing him down to a mannerless oaf. In contrast to his eating frenzies, Dean displayed his usual strategic hunting skills as he grasped for a way to get through to the ghost-du-jour without bones or tethered objects to destroy.
Dean: “Andrew, listen to me. You have every right to be pissed, but take it from me, the more you kill the crazier you’ll get. The blood fuels the rage. So it looks to me like you got two choices: You can keep killing and become something you won’t recognize, or you can move on, ‘cause that is the only thing that’s gonna give you peace. It’s up to you man. Pain or Peace?”
Dean has a way of boiling things down to the simplest terms, doesn’t he? Obviously Dean’s insights to the vengeful spirit were informed by his own battle with the MoC. Dean has the same choices – he can give in to killing and become something he won’t recognize (which already happened at Randy’s house) or he can get on with his life, because that is the only way he will find any peace. I’m curious if Dean had come to this conclusion for himself before trying to talk down Andrew, or if the heat of the moment helped him to see things more clearly. Either way, he had reflected on his situation enough to admit that the blood fuels his rage, and he will eventually have to deal with the rage.
Andrew’s wife also encouraged him to move on, but she told him how to do it.
Corey Silver: “I should have said this earlier, but I couldn’t let go. But it’s time for me to let go and for you to do the same. Please I’m begging you. Do this for me. Do it for us. Goodbye.”
Letting go of wrongs done to us and wrongs we have done to others is the only way to save ourselves. Corey begged Andrew to let go of his need for revenge at the same time she acknowledged her need to let go of him so he could be at peace. Andrew chose to move on…and so did Dean.
Sam: “Looks like Andrew wasn’t the only one who chose peace.”
Dean: “Yeah, looks like. Think I’m gonna follow his lead too.”
Sam: “What do you mean?”
Dean: “My peace is helping people. Working cases. That’s all I want to do.”
Sam: “Is this about the Mark?”
Dean: “I’m done trying to find a cure Sammy.”
Sam: “Dean, Cas is so close.”
Dean: “To what? We don’t even know if there is a cure. So far, we’ve got nothing. We have found nothing at the MoL library; Metatron may or may not know something and maybe Cas is onto something with Cain….maybe.”
Sam: “Yeah, maybe. Nothing is guaranteed Dean. So what? You can’t just stop fighting.”
Dean: “Yes we can.”
Sam: “So this is it. You’re just gonna give up.”
Dean: “No, I’m not just gonna give up. I appreciate the effort, OK? I do. But the answer is not out there. It’s with me. I need to be the one calling the shots here. I can’t keep waking up every morning with this false hope. I got to know where I stand, otherwise I’m gonna lose my freaking mind. So I want to fight it, ‘till I can’t fight it anymore. Then when all is said and done, I’ll go down swinging.”
Dean’s inner warrior needs to see things in simple terms – fight or flight – and Dean is tired of strategizing, researching, running, searching for answers and hoping for a way out. He’s decided to just turn around and face the fight head on. He knows his opponent now. He knows he is battling his own rage. So he’s going to try to find the answer within himself; he’s going to find his inner peace by saving people and hunting things. Hopefully, his speeches about forgiveness mean that he knows that working to feel peace is not the same as attaining peace. He needs to forgive himself one transgression at a time to find true peace.
Sam wisely let his brother have the last word because he knew that Dean sorely needed that resolution, even if it is only temporary. It didn’t look like Sam bought into it, though. Good. Sam, you have to have enough hope for both of you.
The Story and the Truth
This season has frequently shown how people weave their own stories to avoid facing painful truths. When talking to Sam, Corey defended her fabricated, romantic fairy tale story of communicating with her husband in the afterlife:
Mrs. Silver: “Mostly I didn’t want to face the truth.”
It was only through letting go of the story and facing the truth that she was able to let Andrew, and herself, be at peace.
. Sam made it a whole week without getting knocked unconscious! Hooray!!
· Supernatural is taking its family values lessons to a whole new level. A few weeks ago, a victim was killed when he went out to sneak a cigarette. This week:
- Driving drunk? Billy died.
- Texting while driving? Caused an accident.
- Driving on a suspended license because of a previous DUI? Add letting a man die and leaving the scene of an accident to your list of crimes.
- Play music too loud? Go deaf, right before your brain melts…literally.
- Always practice safe sex, even in meaningless, casual hook-ups!
These public service announcements come at no extra charge during your weekly ghost hunt! Actually, though, I think they have a lot to do with the next point…
· Again with the 16-25 year old guest stars! Not only were the crimes set on a college campus, inside dorms and dining halls, but the dialog emphasized the blatantly obvious targeted age of the show:
Local Detective: “Now days the only way to know anything about teenagers is through social media. Trust me. I have two of them.”
Mrs. Silver: “Some teenage girl. I think she goes to the college.”
Flash: The vast majority of teenagers are in high school/secondary school not college. In Iowa, only college freshmen or maybe sophomores would still be teens so don’t try to trick us into thinking you’re hip to teens when you’re using college coeds in your story!
This episode also talked about the latest social media tools, it made fun of the outrageously old “Gen Xers” (I’m in BIG trouble if GenX is now considered over the hill!), and the ghost used Wi-Fi to haunt victims. Wi-Fi wasn’t common enough when this show began 10 years ago for that to even have been an option back then! Again I say, some white board in the writers’ office has “modernize hunts and appeal to younger audience” as a goal for S10! I foresee a hiatus article dedicated to this subject because this demographic redirection is obvious, and frankly, alienating! Obviously, “teens these days” are proficient with social media and apps, but only a proportionate sector or the fan base are in their teens! The fact that you found this article on an internet website, probably because of a tweet or Facebook post, quite possibly when you checked your mobile device, probably fed from a wi-fi signal proves that the teens are not the only ones who “get” social media and apps!
· Several times this season we have observed the dumbing down of Sam or Dean. This episode they seemed to mysteriously be able to access their brains again, but it was the teens who were portrayed as mindless goofs. I know teens make dumb decisions a lot of the time, but Delilah’s roommate didn’t have to study because she was sleeping with the TA, Delilah only took art history because she got to look at naked guys, Billy so relied on “Trini” that he drove further and further into a deserted area looking for Tacos, speaker guy was willing to “hook up” with some random chick just because she offered via text….I could go on and on. I am nowhere near my teen years, but I seriously objected to the portrayal of teens as complete and utter idiots. I think my two kids would object to this objectification also. What do you think? Was the stereotyping justified for the story? Did you notice the over-the-top typecasting? Am I being too sensitive?
I enjoyed the familiarity of “Halt and Catch Fire”. I loved seeing Sam and Dean hunt again! I was taken aback that they looked considerably older and more “gentrified” in their suits and overcoats, especially compared to the 20-somethings that surrounded them, but I’m afraid we’d all look old on a college campus (except those of you who belong on a college campus!). The myth arc symbolism didn’t melt my brain and the story was an original way to update an established plot. I liked that Sam and Dean split up to pursue different angles of the case. It seemed natural and believable, yet was a good way to relieve some of the Js filming time. I would have liked less caricature and more sophistication to the victims, the survivors and our boys, but I loved the broments.
Always and forever.
I’m sucked in every time.
Almost by definition, “Threads” readers like to analyze and decipher episodes. Did the pluses outweigh the negatives for you? Heaven help me, but did you hear Dean’s conversations as acknowledgement that forgiveness is on his mind? Given he doesn’t see any other solutions, do you agree with Dean’s strategy to quit looking for a way out and just plow forward to the end (that was so reminiscent of what he said when he had no other options in “No Rest for the Wicked”!)? Lastly, what have you thought of the updated pop music the past few weeks versus the traditional hard rock that is characteristic of Supernatural? A sign of the times or a willingness to be open to change…or a tragedy? I’m curious to hear what you thought of the episode!
Screencaps courtesy of www.screencapped.net