"BITTEN" by a Change in Perspective
"It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say 'It's as plain as the nose on your face.' But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?"
I remember standing in an art gallery once, staring at a painting. I was not impressed. All I could see were brush strokes, no brilliant-as-advertised picture. Shaking my head in disgust, I walked across the room, hoping the paintings there might be a little better. Just as I reached the far side I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. I turned around, and gasped. Hanging on the far wall, was the most incredibly beautiful painting.
Perspective, as they say, is everything. And sometimes it's not quite as simple as the nose on your face.
Take for instance the simple act of looking at yourself in the mirror. We do it everyday. There's a brief glance while brushing teeth, perhaps a longer gaze if applying makeup or trying to style hair. But how closely does that reflected image resemble the face the rest of the world sees? True, in that shiny bit of glass, we might see a few good points - the colour of our eyes, or the perfect hair day. But I suspect most of us are guilty of seeing only the faults. Where others see crinkly laugh lines, we see crow's feet. Where others see adorable freckles or moles, we see the things we got teased about in elementary school. Where others see the marks of an interesting life, we see only scars, and wrinkles.
Perhaps that's why we developed photography. Think of all the school pictures, the wedding photos, and the candids snapped while out with friends or on vacation. And of course there's the inevitably awful passport and driver's license shots. Some of those pictures we really like. Others we'd rather delete or destroy. Sometimes we love or hate the snapshot because it captures a moment in time where the truth of who we are is exposed. It's the honesty of the expression, and the fact someone else saw it, which triggers our reaction.
A photograph gives us the chance to see ourselves through another's eyes. It lets us look at ourselves in a different way. And in the case of "Supernatural", that's what I really appreciate about episodes like "Bitten". They give us a new perspective on Sam and Dean. It's why I saw value in characters like Garth and Charlie and their episodes. (You can read more about Garth in my article "Being Garth in a Winchester World.")
Most nights we see the brothers through our own singular and unique vantage point - SolelySam!Girl, DefinitelyDean!Girl, BoldlyBothBrothers!Girl. But an episode like this shows us how other observers view the Winchesters.
To quote Zachariah, we already know Sam and Dean are brothers who are psychotically, irrationally, erotically codependent on each other. But people watching them from a distance don't know any of that. Yet, both Michael and Brian joked about the "workplace romance vibe" coming from the brothers. Of course, they didn't know they were siblings. But they were sensing their closeness and the intimacy that two regular, run-of-the-mill partners simply would not have. In a strange way, that new perspective acts to reconfirm the brothers' relationship.
Take for instance the overheard conversation in the restaurant where, according to Brian, the Winchesters mainly talked about being apart for a year. Would we have loved to see and hear that discussion? Absolutely!! And I really, really hope we do get to see that conversation in the future. (We better!) But for now there's proof they're actually talking about their time apart. It suggests some character growth and maturity from both brothers. They're at least trying to acknowledge the major issue dividing them.
It's also interesting what the trio, and the audience notice about the brothers, just from the found footage. Dean does say "awesome" a lot. He doesn't quite fit in, isn't quite believable as an FBI agent. There's brusqueness and reined-in aggression about him, suggesting the warrior who returned from Purgatory hasn't yet adjusted to "civilian" life.
As well, it stands to reason that, at first, Sam would be more convincing as an FBI agent. He's coming off the Year of Normal Thinking. However, I am surprised none of them commented on Sam's hair versus what would likely be considered regulation length!
For those of us who know about the brothers year apart, we can detect the trace of its' continuing fallout in their argument about whether or not there's a case. Dean tells Sam he's rusty, which is an implicit suggestion he's not. And perhaps Sam's reluctance to see a case is his way of reminding Dean he just wants to find Kevin and be out!
And what would it be like to hear two officers talking about Mayan gods instead of murder suspects? Most people would probably worry about where the investigation was headed with that pair of lunatics in charge. Instead the students found reassurance in their eavesdropping. Michael wasn't turning into anything bad. He was becoming a god! Rejoice! Everything will be okay. Sadly, not so much.
It's a fascinating journey to watch as Brian, Michael and Kate change their perception of Sam and Dean. At first, they're objects of ridicule "Starsky & Hutch, Rizzoli & Isles". Then, they become objects of interest and discussion - workplace romantics who talk about Mayan Gods? Then, when they see the brothers kill Professor!Werewolf, they see Sam and Dean as possible saviours, people who can help them figure out the mess they're in. But by the end, Kate sees them as the hunters they are, and recognizes the threat they now represent to her.
It's an equally fascinating journey to watch Sam and Dean change their perspective. In full-on hunter mode, they arrive at the house to find two mangled bodies. One homemade movie later, they have met, and now mourn the young men who lie bloody and broken. And they have so much empathy for the young woman, once full of hopes and dreams, and now a werewolf they may have to kill someday. You can see the heartbreak on their faces. They've never witnessed the entire transformation from ordinary innocent to "monster". Now that they've seen it, they'll never be able to forget it. In the future, when they have to "gank" something supernatural, they'll flash to Michael's charm, Brian's enthusiasm, or Kate's ambitions. At some point, this little film is going to inform an important decision. I suspect there is more than a little foreshadowing here for how Sam and Dean and Benny the Purgatory-vampire will interact.
The movie also lets Sam and Dean see themselves in a new way. The little observation that Dean's go-to word is "awesome" leads to a very sweet brother moment. For an instant, Dean drops the deflector shields. He shows he does worry about what other people think of him. His soft, shy question to Sam "Do I really say awesome a lot?" is a rare sign of introspection and vulnerability. He's looking for reassurance that this new perspective on himself might be wrong. And Sam, being the loving brother he is - further proof that the bond is still there - says a hurried "No", although he really means YESSSS! It's quite beautiful the way this scene echoes the lies we tell to those we love everyday.
I am left wondering how different things might have been if only Michael or Brian or Kate could have had a small shift in perspective. What if Brian hadn't been so hard on himself? What if Kate & Michael had remembered how annoying it is when new couples are constantly showing the Public Displays of Affection around their single friends? What if they'd just put the cameras down and really looked at each other?
The saddest thing about "Bitten" is probably how little it affected Sam and Dean's perspective on themselves. Both brothers have in the past, and probably continue to view themselves as monsters, as killers. But we got the chance to see that they are still compassionate men who really want to hope for the best, or at least hope that something good can be salvaged from something awful.
Being mostly humble men, I wonder if the Winchesters fully appreciated the parallels to their own lives, in the fact that Kate, like many of us (hunters, werewolves, monsters, average folk) end up on a path in life we didn't necessarily choose. Sam didn't ask for demon blood. Dean didn't ask to go to Purgatory. Neither brother asked to be an archangel's vessel or to be thrust into a life of hunting. But it happened, and they have had to deal with the consequences.
From Sam and Dean's vantage point, all they see are the dark and evil brushstrokes of destiny on their lives. But, perhaps, one day, they'll walk across the room and see the accomplishment, the value and the beauty of all they've achieved.
After all, perspective, as they say, is everything.
I liked this episode and the way you described it only enhanced the positive experience. :)
I love the fact you bring up Sam's hair. As an FBI agent, it would never pass. Fox Mulder he ain't! People have commented on Dean's beautiful car in the past, but never about Sam's hair.
Though I didn't care for this episode, I believe I just didn't watch it with eyes wide open as you have done.(the camera was making me nauseous, so blame it on that.)
I'm really delighted that nearly every review I've read has been extremely positive about it. Makes me happy and proud for my show.