We’ve had some fascinating female characters in this show, but only Ruby and Bela endured for more than one episode. Inspired by elle’s latest article, I felt compelled to take a closer look at one of the show’s most misunderstood and most hated characters, ‘the so-called Bela Talbot’.
I know that it’s season five time now, and Bela got ripped to pieces by hellhounds way more than a year ago, but somehow I haven’t been able to forget her, because my attitude towards her has changed. For me, one way to pull through a hiatus is watching older seasons of Supernatural. Getting to know Bela has been a mixed experience and my emotions stretched from admiration to loathing to compassion.
Yes, she betrayed the brothers. She almost got them killed a few times. She stole one of their most valuable possessions, the colt. She put a psychopathic hunter on their trail.
She also got Dean to wear a tux and proposed ‘angry sex’ which left the elder Winchester, who is rarely at a loss for words, speechless and slightly unsettled. (Without her, Dean would probably never have had that fantastic James Bond moment.)
She made Sam slip into a wet dream about her that got him drooling and resulted in Dean teasing him about his ‘happy noises’, and when Bela entered the room shortly after Sam woke up, judging from his awkward and embarrassed reaction, the dream’s lingering effect kept him on his chair (instead of getting up, as the Winchesters usually do when a lady enters a room, yes, despite of their on-the-road existence, they are well-mannered) and a sweet, but weird expression on his face.
The brothers’ reactions to her show a variety of emotions the early, slightly horny attitude as they meet her at the restaurant, their acknowledgement of her guts and her style, their appreciation of her assistance to help Bobby, and, of course, annoyance and hostility not unlike what I feel about her.
But there is more to that remarkable woman. She’s not only the bad gal. If she is a villain, then (to paraphrase her) she is a great villain.
When Bela came into the story, I instantly liked her. She had style. She was lovely and smart and eloquent. I was a bit sceptical at first, I need to admit, but she won my interest when she introduced herself as ‘a great thief’. A woman of confidence, it seemed, probably selfish and matter-of-fact. Strong enough to outfox the boys, with a preference for silk sheets stuffed with money and Louis Vuitton luggage. Now, knowing the show, I was sure that Bela would not be a one-dimensional character. And she wasn’t.
She brought a lot of problems to planet Winchester, and Lauren Cohan took a wonderfully multi-faceted approach to the role. You never really knew what she was going to do next. You certainly did not expect her to shoot Sam I found this hard to take in: I wanted to like her, but shooting one of our dear Winchesters was a bit too much (even more as a shoulder hit can actually do a lot of damage).
And she was not afraid of them. Or at least did not show it. In any case, she was reckless enough to toy with Dean’s impala.
Early on, though, it became very clear that that entire I-couldn’t-give-a-damn attitude was nothing but a neatly crafted front she used to protect herself. Beneath the cool exterior of the ‘skinny stuck-up English girl’ was another woman who was afraid, insecure, damaged and lonely.
Those parts flared up in tiny moments for instance when she came to the boys for help after seeing the ghost ship in Red Sky At Morning and paying them for their assistance, or when she realized she actually almost got the brothers killed after sending Gordon after them in Fresh Blood .
Even then, before we knew her history, I wondered what happened to you, girl? There are no friends, only a cat, there is no lover, just many quite psychotic clients and ghosts who answer to your quija boardâ€¦ No one lives like that for no reason.
That somehow moved me. A woman who was beautiful, obviously well educated and highly intelligent had not become a classy thief out of boredom. I kept thinking what was she so afraid of to reveal about herself that she put such an effort into hiding it? When you meet people that do that in real life, typically you discover a sad story behind the intentionally dazzling mask.
Bela’s perhaps I should rather say: Abbie’s story is such a tragic tale. Her parents ‘were lovely people’ her description of her folks dripping with irony.
They were everything but that her father abused her (presumably sexually, judging from her younger self’s dreaded expression, had she received beatings alone, her reaction would have probably been slightly different) for years (a girl will not agree to kill her parents after a single incident).
And her mother? Why did Abbie decide that her mom needed to die, too? Only two logical reasons come to mind: either her mother did approve (as, shockingly, not few mothers actually do when they are afraid of losing their husbands if they exposed their doing) or her mom ignored signs of her child’s distress and thus the situation completely (in a sense children do, perhaps: if I don’t see him, he doesn’t see me either). In any case, she did not protect her daughter.
Abbie needed to get away, and the demon offered her a tempting deal. I don’t think the fourteen year old girl was able to comprehend the consequences in the moment she said yes. I can’t hold this against her she had been living in hell, created by humans. Anything was better than that. Even killing her parents.
When you look at what abuse does to a child (and to the grown-up that child becomes), an action like that seems entirely justified. In my mind I strip those people of their humanity. Not even animals do that.
So, the girl got rich. Slowly, it must have dawned on her what going to hell in ten years time actually meant. Once she truly realized what was coming to her, her mind started working, and eventually she became Bela Talbot. Or Mina Chandler. Or Bela Lugosi, etc.
She became a thief specializing in occult objects, and my guess is that she was hoping to find anything, some mojo, some weapon, whatever, to get rid of that deal. In order to succeed in this personal mission, she burned off her fingerprints and became a master of con. The money she inherited and earned with theft, she probably used on research, bribery, blackmail. Anything to save herself.
In a way, she was a mirror for the brothers and she confronted them with issues they usually did not like deal with: ‘Being a hunter is so much more noble? Bunch of obsessed, revenge-driven sociopaths trying to save a world that can’t be saved?… We’re all going to hell, Dean, might as well enjoy the ride.’ The lady has a point. Revenge had been at the centre of Papa Winchester’s world. And he would have done anything to find Mary’s killer. And one season later, Sam was ready to do just about anything to save his brother and stop the apocalypse.
I don’t think Bela started out as ‘an awful person’. But years of abuse and hellhound threat can change a human being’s personality. She’s able to adapt to an environment easily, yet is very narcissistic. She shows a sociopath streak, but is prepared to help Bobby. She’s quicksilver.
Given the circumstances, she did whatever she could to survive. When you know you’re going to hell in ten years you cannot allow yourself to get close to anybody. Sentimentalities are painful.
Dean distanced himself from the one closest to him, Sam, and he had only one year to face. Imagine what it means to stare down the pit for ten years. There is plenty of time to feel remorse, regret or plain hate. It will eat away at anyone.
I’m trying to understand Bela’s character, here, not to justify her actions. In the end, she was willing to kill the Winchesters in cold blood to get out of her deal. She was desperate, already suffering from hallucinations and probably scared to hell.
Dean was right had she told them about her fate early on, the brothers would have in all likelihood done anything humanly possible to save her. That’s part of their nature.
But Bela, after teaching herself not to trust anyone, couldn’t muster up the faith to confide in Sam and Dean. And she died as she had lived for about ten years alone, scared and despised.